If recent weeks and outcomes are any indication, tonight's Lawrence High-Shawnee Mission Northwest boys' basketball sub-state game will be close and low-scoring.
LHS (5-15) has won three of its last four and is 5-4 since opening with 11 losses. Meanwhile, SM Northwest (13-7) has lost four in a row and failed to score at least 30 points in its last two games. Tipoff is approximately 7:30 p.m. at Olathe South.
"I hope we would play like we have been the last half of the season," LHS coach Mark Vancuren, whose team is upbeat after claiming a 54-47 overtime victory over Olathe North on Friday. "We've improved, gotten better and have taken care of the ball. We're a better defensive team, we want to continue the trend and not regress. It's a one-game season from now on and we want to approach it with that sense of urgency."
SM Northwest scored a total of 47 points in its final two games of the regular season.
"We're a pretty deliberate team and we played two teams that were a lot more deliberate than we were," SM Northwest coach Ben Meseke said of season-ending losses to Shawnee Mission South (27-24) and SM West (30-23). "We haven't gotten away from anybody all year."
One of the Cougars' victories was a 40-39 decision over LHS at Northwest on Feb. 9. Junior guard Josh Hydeman hit a five-foot baseline jumper with eight seconds left for the game-winner. LHS turned the ball over on its final possession with two seconds left.
Unlike last year when LHS was favored to win sub-state before losing to Kansas City Schlagle in the final, the Lions are an underdog this season.
"We've talked about being a spoiler," Vancuren said. "We'd love to be a team someone is overlooking. We're coming in with confidence. We have an opportunity to be a spoiler and would love to throw a monkey wrench into everyone's plan."
Senior guard Kin Vinson, the Lions' top scorer 13 times this season, averages 15.6 points to lead LHS. Senior forward Ike Ezefili averages 10.6 points and a team-high eight rebounds.
"Coach (Vancuren) does a nice job with them," Meseke said. "They lost so many kids from last year. They're not new anymore ... they're experienced."
Joel Yeidell, a 6-foot-5 senior, averages 10 points a game to lead Northwest.
The LHS-SM Northwest winner will play the Olathe South-Topeka winner at 7:30 p.m. Saturday for a berth in next week's Class 6A state tournament in Emporia.
Host O-South is 16-4 and ranked No. 4 in 6A.
Is Olathe South the team to beat?
"Lawrence is right now," Meseke said.
LHS will be trying to qualify for state for the first time since winning the championship in 1995.
-- Steve Rottinghaus' phone message number is 832-7152. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org