Aundre Kizer said his phone had been “blowing up” all week.
It’s like that when family plays family. On Thursday night, it was Aundre’s Bowsher Rebels vs. DeShone Kizer’s Central Catholic team in the semifinals of the Division I boys district basketball tournament at Savage Arena.
If this battle between cousins had been a comparison of headlines and clippings, DeShone would have a clear lead. He’s a three-sport star for the Irish and is headed to Notre Dame to play football.
Maybe Aundre was due.
He scored 19 points, DeShone had eight points with 10 rebounds, and the Rebels escaped with a 63-60 victory before a big crowd.
The game was close because Bowsher was careless down the stretch and because the Rebs couldn’t make a free throw if their lives depended on it. They finished 6-of-22 from the line. Yes, a team that shot 57 percent from the field, and even better than that from 3-point range, made 27 percent of its free throw attempts. Go figure.
But Bowsher had enough to hang on because Aundre Kizer gave them a lead even they couldn’t fully dribble away.
“It felt good to play well against my cousin and his team,” Aundre said. “We’ve been pretty tight.
“I’ve been hearing from family all week. I’ve heard from people I didn’t even realize were family. Somebody sent me a picture from some family thing, me and DeShone when we were little. Yeah, this was fun.”
When it’s family against family, one group leaves happy and one side leaves with long faces.
One gent who felt good about it either way was Dick Crowell, the former Bowsher head coach for many years, who had both Derek Kizer, DeShone’s dad, and Aundre Kizer, Sr., on his teams in the late 1980s.
“When they walked in the gym it was all business,” Crowell recalled. “I can’t remember too many players I ever had who worked harder in practice.
“But they had completely different personalities. Derek was the more serious and probably the most focused. Aundre was the happy-go-lucky kid who always had a smile on his face. I see some of the same in their sons.”
The Rebels, at times, didn’t have a lot to smile about Thursday night. They have won a school-record 23 games now and you might say they’ve been a bit offensive while doing so. Bowsher has scored 100-plus points eight times and has been in the 80s or higher 15 times.
The Rebels didn’t come close to that Thursday in part because of a lot of turnovers against Central’s sound defense and in part because of enough missed free throws to fill a few potholes. They led the TRAC-champion Irish by just four at halftime, but Bowsher’s Kizer made a statement that changed everything early in the second half.
A fast-break dunk got things started, then a 3-pointer that seemed to bounce about a dozen times on the cylinder before slicing through the net, then another drive in transition, then an NBA-length trey that answered one by his cousin and put the City League champs up 49-36.
After picking up his third and fourth fouls in a matter of 35 seconds late in the third quarter, Aundre returned to the court midway through the fourth and notched a big jumper for a 60-47 lead.
It wasn’t easy from there, but it was enough of a cushion.
Aundre Kizer had a similar explosion for the Rebels in the CL title game, when he tossed in 33 points while the team’s leading scorer, Nate Allen, was sitting out a one-game suspension.
Bowsher coach Joe Guerrero is right when he suggests he has five or six veteran guys who, on any given night, can step up and play hero.
“But Aundre has definitely been doing that for us in some big games lately,” Guerrero said. “I’m happy for him. He’s had some struggles and some setbacks along the way, but he’s a great kid who really wants his team to win.”
Crowell remembers that same desire by the two elder Kizers he once coached. Both went on to play Division I college basketball, Derek at Bowling Green and Aundre, Sr., at Central Michigan.
“I believe very strongly that athletic ability and a lot of the intangibles that separate above-average players from others can be part of the DNA,” Crowell said. “You can see that, plus some of the same physical attributes, in the two kids playing now.”
DeShone Kizer has had a lot of big moments in a lot of sports.
On Thursday, it was Aundre’s turn.
Contact Blade sports columnist Dave Hackenberg at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6398.