Topeka The Lawrence High's boys basketball team's late run wasn't enough to overcome Topeka Seaman's fast start Saturday in the Topeka Invitational.
"We played well, but we played well too late," LHS senior Brandon McAnderson said. "Once we got close, we couldn't keep it going and ran out of gas."
Indeed. The Lions' 59-45 loss wasn't indicative of how close the game was throughout the second half. LHS overcame a 15-point, first-half deficit to pull within two, 45-43, with 2:59 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Thanks to a tenacious defense and inspired play by McAnderson, the Lions nearly overcame their horrid start. But mental mistakes and some costly fouls, which led to the Vikings connecting on 12 of 14 fourth-quarter free throws, spelled the end for LHS in the fifth-place game.
Lions coach Chris Davis said it wasn't the end of the game that doomed the Lions.
"To start the game without any intensity was the key," he said. "But for us to come out in the third quarter and play the way we did, I told the kids, 'If that's the way we'd start every game instead of having to claw our way back into it, we'd be a pretty good team.'"
For all its defensive pressure, LHS (4-5) never had any offensive consistency except for McAnderson.
The 6-foot, 215-pound forward scored a team-high 16 points on seven of 16 field-goal attempts, many of them capping one-on-one drives.
"We have a play designed that lets our post players go one-on-one that we use a lot," Davis said. "Today, Brandon was showing he was very intense and very aggressive in going to the basket."
The offensive strategy also led to ample open shots for LHS guards Taylor Parker and Bryan Cargill, but both struggled from the outside. Cargill was three of 10, including two of eight from three-point range, while Parker hit two of nine shots.
The performance was a considerable cool down from a day earlier when the pair combined for 21 points on seven of 12 shooting.
"We've been shooting the ball so well, I think we've been accustomed to seeing it go in," Davis said. "When that happens, our big men need to step up and fill that. We just didn't have a complete game."
Seaman's Brent Lierz was the game's leading scorer, with 31 points -- nine in the decisive first quarter, eight of them on layups.
"They're well coached," McAnderson said of the Vikings. "Anytime a coach loses his voice two minutes into the game, you can tell. They ran their stuff, and they ran it well."