After losing 12 seniors from a 16-6 team, Lawrence High basketball coach Mark Vancuren knew it would take time for the 1998-99 Lions to come around.
They did. The Lions opened with 11 losses before going 5-5 to end at 5-16.
"From the beginning to the end, we did see a lot of improvement," Vancuren said. "The second half of the season was definitely a lot more enjoyable."
A three-point shot at the regulation buzzer last Thursday by Shawnee Mission Northwest's Joel Yeldell prevented the Lions from playing for a state berth. The Cougars went on to win, 47-45, in overtime. It marked the fourth time LHS lost a game that wasn't decided until the final possession.
"They hit a shot that was a difficult shot," Vancuren said. "We had two guys with their hands in the face and it just so happened it went in. I'll give them that shot with both guys in his face again."
LHS senior Kin Vinson was stunned when he turned around and noticed Yeldell's basket was good.
"We had two guys on him and both in his face," Vinson said. "He made what I would call a lucky shot and it went in. We couldn't have defended that any better unless we stole it."
Vinson scored 18 points, including all eight of Lawrence's points in the third quarter. He was 8-for-8 from the free-throw line to lead LHS, which was 16-for-16.
Vinson finished the season with team highs in scoring average (15.7) and three-pointers (31). Senior transfer Ike Ezefili averaged 10.5 points to rank second for LHS.
The Lions also won twice on their final possession. Jeff Forbes hit a buzzer beater against Topeka and Bryce McMichael scored on a late layin against Shawnee Mission East.
Platt will miss seniors
Ending the season with a 58-45 loss to Olathe East didn't bother LHS girls basketball coach David Platt as much as realizing his three seniors -- Somer Easterwood, Jacinta Langford and Valerie Burt -- wouldn't be around next year.
"They're the nicest young ladies you'd ever meet," Platt said. "They're very stable, young people. The outcome wasn't the saddest part, but the fact we're not going to have those girls around anymore. They represent the community well."
Easterwood led the Lions all season. Olathe East smothered her in the sub-state semifinals, holding her to eight points.
"Every time I got the ball they were collapsing on me," Easterwood said.
The Lions finished with a 6-15 record. Their biggest victory was a 60-52 decision over eventual state qualifier Shawnee Mission Northwest.
"If you look at the first game we played and the last game, we improved a lot," said LHS junior point guard Dani May. against Olathe East. "That's what counts."