Topeka — As the only Class 4A school in the predominantly 6A Centennial League, Topeka Hayden is used to opponents with larger enrollments.
The Wildcats are not used to seeing those larger schools shoot 57 percent from the floor, though, and that's what Lawrence High did Friday night in its 61-50 semifinal win in the Topeka Invitational Tournament.
"Our opponents average about 39 percent, so we don't see that very often," Hayden coach Ben Meseke said. "But then, we don't see Lawrence very often."
The fourth-ranked Lions, now 9-1, face Topeka West, 10-1, in tonight's championship. Tipoff is set for 7:30 at Hayden.
Coming in, Lawrence had held its opponents to 42.4 percent from the field, and its defense stayed true to form. The Wildcats hit 42.9 percent.
Still, it was a one-point game at halftime.
"THAT WAS a very good game," LHS coach Ron Weber said. "We couldn't pull away from them."
Finally the Lions built a lead in the third quarter by hitting nine of 12 from the floor.
Junior center Mike Schwartz's three-point play started the breakaway barrage with 5:13 left in the third. Michael Cosey followed with a stickback, Maurice Trotter with another stickback and Brandon Hamm with two straight buckets to give the Lions a 42-32 lead less than three minutes later.
Hayden came no closer than six the rest of the way.
"We got a pretty good cushion on them," Weber said. "Somewhere in there we did lose a little patience on offense, which meant we had to go back and play like hell on defense, but we did it."
Trotter finished with a game-high 21 points. Schwartz added 13 for the Lions.
"IT WAS SO great to see Mike play like that," Weber said. "I told him if he could play like that we'd be tough, because that's what we need. We need our big guys inside to play well."
That was especially true against Hayden center Hank Desch, who led the Wildcats with 16 points.
"I was really psyched up to play against Desch. He's about 6-7," said Schwartz, who stands 6-4. "I wanted to take it to him and prove to coach I could play defense on him."
After a two-for-15 night in the first round against Highland Park Wednesday, Trotter went 10-for-15. He hit eight buckets in a row after missing four of his first six shots.
"I came out more confident than I did Wednesday," Trotter said. "I struggled at first, but I wasn't forcing it. Coach told me to keep shooting and eventually it would fall."
Lawrence will play for the Topeka Invitational title for the first time since 1986, when it beat Topeka High, 80-79. Topeka West never has played for the championship.
Highland Park beat Kansas City Sumner, 91-86, in Friday's loser's bracket game, breaking the Topeka tournament record for total points scored (177). The old record was 170, set last year when Topeka beat Atchison 112-58.
Hayden, which fell to 7-4, will play Topeka for third place at 3 p.m. Hi Park faces KC Washington at 1:30 in the fifth-place game, and Atchison and Sunmer play at noon for seventh.