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Archive for Tuesday, March 5, 2002

Senior duo drives LHS

March 5, 2002

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One way or another, Lawrence High senior guards D.J. Watkins and Stephen Vinson will get you.

Heading into the Class 6A state tournament, Watkins, a 6-foot-2 shooting guard, leads the Lions with a 17.8 scoring average and 56 three-point goals. Vinson, a 6-3 point guard, is second in both categories, averaging 15.7 points with 40 three-point goals.

The Lions (18-4) will play Wichita West (14-8) at 8:15 p.m. Thursday in the state quarterfinals at White Auditorium in Emporia.

"They usually find a way to come through," second-year LHS coach Chris Davis said. "One of the two will make something happen at the end of the game to let the team come through."

In the sub-state championship against Olathe East on Saturday at Free State, the two seniors found that way. Vinson scored 16 of his game-high 20 points in the first half.

Watkins took over in the final two minutes of the fourth quarter, scoring six of the Lions' final nine points and converting a steal into a layin to give LHS a three-point lead and finished with 16 points. The Lions eventually won, 62-57, to seal the team's first state berth in seven years.

"Stephen had the great first half, D.J. made a couple of mistakes but made up for them in a huge way at the end of the game," Davis said. "Between the two of them, they'll find a way to get it done."

Vinson likes the coach's assessment.

"It seems like we do feed off each other," Vinson said. "The first half I felt great. The second half they started running double teams at me and D.J. took advantage of that and came up big down the stretch."

Vinson, a candidate for Sunflower League player of the year honors, has been a varsity starter for three years. Watkins, the school's all-time leading three-point shooter with 104, has been a two-year starter.

As a sophomore, Vinson endured a 7-14 season and finished third on the team with a 8.1 scoring average to earn Sunflower League sophomore of the year honors. Vinson led the Lions in scoring last season at 12.6 points a game and Watkins was second at 12.5.

"I knew we had some good young players coming up," Vinson recalled of his sophomore year. "That's what I've been working for. I've been working for the moment to be able to get a shot at this. I'm glad it's here."

Vinson and Watkins had been eyeing this moment since their junior high days. Vinson starred at Southwest Junior High and Watkins at Central Junior High.

"D.J. has been telling me about this since junior high and I've kind of nodded my head in agreement with him," Vinson said. "I'm glad we could get there (to state) and I'm glad he's on the team to get there with me."

Watkins and Vinson had older brothers go through the LHS program. Watkins' brother, Andrew, was the point guard and led the Lions in assists in 1997-98. Vinson's brother, Kin, was the top scorer on the 1998-99 team.

"They've helped us out to get where we are," Stephen Vinson said.

Watkins attended several LHS games watching his brother.

"It was really good to be involved in the program early and to know what being a Lion means," said Watkins, who also captained Lawrence High's state champion Scholars' Bowl team.

Combing for 33 points a game, Vinson and Watkins form one of the top back-courts in the state. Watkins is shooting 73.7 percent from the free-throw line (101-for-137) and Vinson is close behind at 72.3 percent (99-for-137).

"We've been trying to work hard all year trying to complement each other," Watkins said. "He comes through with big plays and big passes and I try to do what I can to pay him back."

Vinson hopes the Lions come back Saturday with a state plaque.

"They don't have any sub-state championship banners up," said Vinson, glancing at the banners hanging from the rafters in the LHS gym. "Around here no one really cares (about sub-states). They want to see the state championship and that's what we're going to go after."

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