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Archive for Tuesday, January 21, 1992

LIONS MUST BUST JINX IN FIRST ROUND AT TOPEKA MEET

January 21, 1992

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Custom in the Topeka Invitational Tournament is to make two No. 1 seeds one from among the four Topeka schools in the field and one from among the four out-of-town schools.

Lawrence, 7-1, is the top out-of-town seed for a second consecutive season. Topeka West, at 8-1, is the top local.

It stands to reason, then, that the Chargers are the biggest obstacle between LHS and the tourney title.

Unreasonably, that is wrong.

The Lions face Highland Park at 6 p.m. Wednesday in the first round, and that is, unequivocally, their biggest challenge.

Coaches are all the time preaching that they must play one game at a time and not look ahead. You hear it to the point of nearsightedness. They preach it so much their players preach it, too. (That, by the way, is how cliches are born.)

THIS TIME, though, it's true. The Scotties are Lawrence's biggest opponent in the tournament because they're Lawrence's first opponent in the tournament.

The Lions haven't won a first-round game since the 1986-87 season.

Last year they had every reason to expect that drought would end. They were 5-2 after five straight wins and faced the Scots, a 2-7 team.

But the day the United States went to war against Iraq, the Lions went to pot against Highland Park.

"They beat us to rebounds. They beat us to loose balls. They beat us on offense. They beat us on defense. They just beat us like a drum," LHS coach Ron Weber said after that 70-64 loss.

It could easily happen again. Hi Park is Hi Park: a lot of athletes who, on occasion, can forget their record and play like the Chicago Bulls.

"HIGHLAND PARK has to be one of the most athletic teams in Kansas. . ." Washburn Rural Jeff Stromgren said after his Junior Blues lost to the Scots, 70-68 last Friday.

Lawrence came back last season for two wins in the consolation bracket and fifth place in the Topeka tournament, but there's just something hollow about a win in the consolation final at 1:30 on Saturday afternoon.

As always, this year's seventh-, fifth- and third-place games are scheduled for noon, 1:30 p.m. and 3 p.m. Saturday. That means the only way to play after dark is to make the final.

The Lions haven't played in the championship game since the 1985-86 season when they won the title by beating Topeka High, 80-79.

This is as good a chance as they've had to win it back.

After a slow start, Maurice Trotter has redeveloped into a legitimate threat inside and outside. He's averaging 20 points and nearly seven rebounds a game, and his shooting has steadily improved to 51 percent from the floor.

Michael Cosey is almost as big a threat, averaging five boards and 16 points a game on 56 percent shooting.

BEYOND THAT is what's called depth. Lawrence has nobody else who's setting the court on fire, but with their opponents averaging just 55 points a game, they haven't needed any court fires.

The Lions have won with defense and Trotter and Cosey carrying the scoring load.

It's a formula that has worked seven out of eight times and put them among the top five Class 6A teams in every poll in the state.

It's also enough make you want to blow off the old coach's saw about taking them one at a time and look ahead to Feb. 7, when Lawrence and No. 1-ranked Shawnee Mission West will play for what looks sure to be the Sunflower League title.

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