Olathe D.J. Watkins is no dummy.
Captain of Lawrence High's Scholars Bowl state championship team, Watkins can do the math. With two Sunflower League games left and leader Olathe South done at 9-1, he knew LHS needed to win its final two league games to share the boys basketball crown.
Behind a game-high 26 points from Watkins, the Lions kept their league title hopes alive with a 65-61 win over Olathe East on Saturday in the O-East gym.
"We knew going in we had to win if we wanted a chance at the title," said Watkins, who scored 10 points in the third quarter when he became the Lions' leader in career three-point goals made. "We're coming on strong at the end of the year. We want to continue this going into state."
The Lions (15-3 overall, 8-1 league) have won five in a row and 14 of 15. LHS wraps up the regular season next week with a nonleague contest Tuesday at Free State and a league contest Friday at home against Leavenworth.
"Almost every game we have to win now," LHS coach Chris Davis said. "This team (O-East) from the beginning of the year we have known is one of the powers in the Sunflower League, and to be able to come here and get a win on their court is quite an accomplishment."
Tied at 50 with 6:11 left in the fourth quarter, Lawrence unloaded a 7-1 run to take the lead for good. Following a Watkins assist, LHS senior guard Stephen Vinson popped a three from the right wing to spark the run. Vinson also had a pull-up 15-foot jumper and Brandon McAnderson scored inside after a Jamie Peterson assist in the decisive spurt against the Hawks (13-5, 6-3).
"We're pretty lucky in that the guys take turns stepping up," Davis said. "The other night D.J. got shut down (against Olathe South). Tonight he found a way to make some huge baskets. Jamie Peterson and Brandon McAnderson stepped up and had solid games."
Watkins, limited to 10 points and one field goal against O-South, hit seven of 19 field goals and eight of 10 free throws against the Hawks. Watkins' three-pointer with 2:42 left in the third quarter gave him 95 threes for his prep career to set a school record, passing Todd Heitshusen, who had 94 threes in 1996-97 and 1997-98.
His three-pointer with 56 seconds left in the third quarter gave LHS 116 threes for the season, another school record, eclipsing the 115 made by the 1994-95 state championship team.
"It was a great week," Watkins said. "I was happy to win that (Scholars Bowl) tournament and I set a couple of records."
LHS had seven three-pointers against O-East four by Watkins and one apiece from Matt Dunkin, McAnderson and Vinson to hike its season total to 117.
"The three-point shot is a big part of our offense," Davis said. "The fact we can break that record lets us know that things are working the way we want to. I'm very proud of the effort of the boys and the time they spend in the gym they shoot the ball."
Vinson finished with 19 points on 5-of-13 shooting from the field and 8-of-10 shooting from the line.
Lawrence's biggest lead was six 57-51 with 4:08 left.
"Once we did that we were able to run a little clock off," Vinson said. "That worked to our advantage where we could shorten the game a little bit."
Lawrence's first lead came with 3:18 left in the second quarter, when Vinson drove the lane, spun around and banked in a shot before being fouled. He made the free throw to give LHS a 26-25 lead.
Peterson finished with a team-high nine rebounds.
O-East was led by sophomore Joey Mundweiler, who scored 24 points with five three-pointers. Senior Drew Mathews chipped in 19 points for the Hawks.
"I think we didn't play much like a team today," O-East coach Jim Super said. "I'm disappointed. I thought we played some individual basketball, and against a good team like Lawrence you're going to come up short. We came up short, and I'm surprised we were only four points short. These are high school kids, and I hope we learn a lesson from that. Lawrence has an awful nice team."
LHS and O-East could meet again in two weeks in a sub-state championship.
"Jim and I both said more than likely we'll be in the same sub-state and we could very easily see them," Davis said.
LHS hasn't won a league title in boys basketball since 1985-86.
Tipoff for the LHS-FSHS game on Tuesday is 7 p.m. at Free State.