WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — The Kansas State High School Activities Association (KSHSAA) Girl’s and Boy’s State Basketball Championships begin this week at seven sites across Kansas.

The Wichita Heights Falcons are trying to win back-to-back state titles for the first time since the Perry Ellis-led Falcons teams won four straight between 2009 and 2012. Wichita Heights had to rally from a rare deficit in Friday’s sub-state final to punch its ticket to the Class 6A state tournament at Charles Koch Arena.

In their sub-state final against Wichita Northwest, the Falcons quickly found themselves behind by double-digits, 22-11.

“I thought the kids did a great job staying calm in the first half. We hadn’t been down 11 all year. Probably haven’t been down by 11 in two years. So, it was a different experience for us,” said Head Coach Joe Auer.

Heights fought back to get within two points of the Grizzlies at halftime.

“We reinvented ourselves at halftime. Came out and did it, ‘The Heights Way.’ Got back into it. Played defense,” said junior point guard TJ Williams.

“The Heights Way.” The Falcons flipped the script in the second half, beat the Grizzlies 61-43, and advanced to the state tournament.

“Trying to go back-to-back, you know, is a lot of pressure on young kids. It’s been their goal all year, but we really didn’t talk about that. You just want to stay in the moment, one game at a time. But tonight was about getting back to Koch Arena with an opportunity to defend our championship,” said Auer, who has led Wichita Heights to six state championships in his career.

The pressure to be back-to-back Class 6A state champs.

“It motivates us a lot, you know. And everybody who’s been through here, the history, the success that’s been through here, we know we can be a part of that,” said Williams.

“We just started playing ‘The Heights Way.’ That’s what we did,” said senior center Jordan Okon.

There it is again. So, what is “The Heights Way?”

“Hard work. Dedication. Play for each other. Win,” explained Okon.

“It’s kind of like a secret sauce thing. We don’t really put that out there too much, but just know it’s a thing,” offered Williams.

“We can’t give it all out. Can’t give it out to everybody,” added senior point guard Marcus Zeigler.

Coach Auer says “The Heights Way” is about chemistry and how a player understands how he can contribute to winning.

“So, number one: Identify what you do well and be willing to give that to the team. And then two: The team celebrating when you contribute in the way that you contribute,” said Auer. “So, everybody appreciates each other. Everybody encouraging each other to use the talents that they’ve been blessed with to the fullest, and this group’s really about that.”

The Falcons rallied to eliminate Wichita Northwest 61-43, beating the Grizzlies for the third time this season.

“We all love each other. That’s really it. We all love each other,” said Okon. “We all play for each other because we all want to win. We want to go back-to-back. That’s what drives us.”

Wichita Heights (20-2) is the top seed in the Class 6A tournament. The Falcons will play Junction City (13-9) Wednesday night at 6:00. If the Falcons advance, they could possibly face the Derby Panthers (16-6) in Friday’s state semifinals.