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Archive for Saturday, February 23, 2002

Lions snare share of league

February 23, 2002

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Lawrence High senior Stephen Vinson must have skipped class as a kindergartener the day sharing was discussed.

Vinson sure wasn't in the sharing mood following the Lions' 70-57 victory over Leavenworth on Friday night at the LHS gym that enabled Lawrence to emerge as Sunflower League boys basketball co-champion with Olathe South. The Lions, ranked No. 3 in Class 6A, hadn't won a league title in boys basketball since 1985-86.

"They keep saying we're sharing it," said the 6-foot-3 Vinson, who scored a game-high 25 points with seven assists and six steals against the Pioneers on Senior Night. "We'd love to play for it again. It's a big deal. It's a huge accomplishment since it hadn't happened for so long."

LHS (16-4 overall, 9-1 league) soon will get to play Leavenworth (8-12, 4-6) again. The Lions will meet the Pioneers in the first round of the Class 6A sub-state at Free State. Tipoff is 6 p.m. on Friday. The Lawrence-Leavenworth winner will play the Olathe East-Free State winner at 7:30 p.m. Saturday for a state berth.

Against Leavenworth, the Lions took control from the get-go. Lawrence scored the first eight points and never trailed. The Lions led 22-13 after one quarter and 31-24 at halftime.

The Pioneers pulled within four points  43-39  with 2:33 left in the third quarter, but could get no closer. The Lions led by as many as 14 points in the fourth quarter.

In the first half, the Lions shot 44.4 percent from the field (12-for-27).

"There was a lid on the basket in the first half," LHS coach Chris Davis said. "We got good shots, but they just didn't go. We had to work a little harder to get better shots in the second half."

The Lions connected on 27 of 57 shots (47.4 percent) overall. From three-point range, LHS made just two of 16 attempts. Lawrence was aided by a 38-27 advantage in rebounds with senior Jamie Peterson snagging a team-high 11 boards.

"We didn't shoot the ball very well tonight, but it's nice to know we can pull out a game even though our shots aren't on," said Vinson, who made eight of 10 free throws to lead LHS at the line.

Lawrence senior guard D.J. Watkins finished with 21 points, including 14 in the second half. He had a nifty behind-the-back dribble for a layin midway through the third quarter.

"We're real happy to achieve one of our goals," Watkins said of the league title. "We knew it'd be extremely tough."

Vinson and Watkins have been Lawrence's leaders all season.

"Lawrence High School is losing a couple of great guards," Davis said. "It was shame it was their last game here. They are such a fantastic combo."

Lawrence's lone league blemish was a 65-52 loss to Olathe North on Jan. 25.

Davis didn't take the league title for granted

"It's been so long since they've done it here in basketball," Davis said. "A lot of games they found a way to win. I'm very, very proud of the season."

With the victory, LHS matched the most wins in a regular season by a Lion squad since the 1994-95 state championship team went 16-4.

Leavenworth was led by Demetrius Branch, who scored 12 points on four three-pointers. It was Leavenworth's first loss to Lawrence in four seasons.

Kansas University freshmen basketball players Wayne Simien, Keith Langford and Jeff Hawkins sat behind the Leavenworth bench. Simien was an all-state performer and McDonald's All-American for the Pioneers before graduating in 2001.

"There was a buzz in the gym when those three walked in," Davis said.

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