Wichita The stakes just went up.
Lawrence High, which had its hopes for a Sunflower League boys basketball championship dashed by Shawnee Mission West in the regular season, will face those same Vikings at 8:15 tonight. On the line this time is a berth to the Class 6A state championship game.
"We're ready," LHS forward Jeff Miller said after Lawrence dispatched Shawnee Heights, 59-43, in the state quarterfinals Thursday at Wichita State's Levitt Arena. "We're so psyched for this game. In the locker room, that's all we've been talking about."
Both were undefeated in the league when the teams met at the LHS gym during the regular season. The Vikings beat the Lions, 68-64, in overtime, and went on to an undefeated conference record. Lawrence finished with one league loss.
THE VIKINGS (22-1) advanced to the state semis with a 55-40 win over Topeka Washburn Rural.
"Like I told the kids," West coach John McFall said, "nobody back home will believe how close that game was. They really took it to us."
McFall, for one, said he wasn't concerned with the Lions' grudge-match motivation.
"Grudge match? We forget about that and concentrate on the next game on the schedule," McFall said. "I don't care who it is. Our kids show up to play and do their best."
The Lions, however, are savoring their shot at revenge.
"It's going to be real big," Lawrence guard Jeff Oatis said. "Everybody felt we shoulda beat them at our place. It's exciting that we get to play them again. We've said all along that we might meet 'em at state. I hope we can come back."
"When they beat us in overtime in Lawrence, we were in it the whole game," Miller added. "We know we can play with 'em. We're looking foward to Shawnee Mission West."
THE WINNER advances to Saturday night's championship game; the loser falls to the consolation finals.
The loss to SM West was the last of three for the Lions during the regular season. It's the freshest in their minds, Miller said.
"Emotionally, that was our worst loss," Miller said. "Against Topeka High and Leavenworth, we just didn't play well. Against West, we played a great game but we still lost."
The Lions, Miller said, didn't look past Shawnee Heights, a team they'd beaten during the regular season. The T-Birds led, 36-35 with 7:15 left, but, keyed by a technical on Heights' coach Bob Bodenheimer, Lawrence went on an 11-2 run to put the game away.
"It was fun," Miller said of the quarterfinal win. "Rebounding and fast breaks were the main thing. That's the name of our game. At the end, I think fatigue was getting to 'em."