Topeka Forgive Lawrence High's boys basketball team for looking ahead to today's Topeka Invitational Tournament finale before its game Friday.
Rest assured, that only is because it gave the Lions plenty of motivation before playing Kansas City Washington.
Knowing a victory Friday would mean a rematch with city rival Free State today, Lawrence High went out and arguably played its most intense game to date, coming from behind to beat Washington, 86-74, at Topeka High.
The win, coupled with the Firebirds' victory earlier in the day, set up city showdown No. 2 at 1:45 p.m. today at Topeka High in the fifth-place game.
"Most of us came in the game knowing we'd play Free State if we won," LHS junior David Freeman said. "That helped us play harder."
How hard? Well, despite an 18-0 run by Washington that lasted from late in the second quarter to midway through the third quarter -- and gave the Wildcats a 10-point lead -- the Lions (3-8) still scored 86 points and won the game by 12.
"We weathered a couple of storms," LHS coach Chris Davis said, "and we stood up to them."
Part of it was improved three-point shooting. Lawrence hit 13 of 34 three-point attempts, and had more open looks than usual. It seemed Washington didn't have a solid scouting report on the Lions' tendency to shoot early and often from long range.
"They didn't have a lot of time to scout and put something in," Davis said. "They had to play us pretty much straight up, and that was to our advantage."
Once Washington (3-9) adjusted to Lawrence's style, the Lions simply found other ways to score -- backdoor cuts, spreading the floor and going one-on-one, the occasional three-pointer, and a lot of free throws. Lawrence connected on 27 charities, though many came once Washington started fouling late.
"It was all about intensity," Davis said. "We played hard, and we played hard for four quarters."
Lawrence took the lead for good with 3:28 to play, when senior Joe Crane made a layup to put the Lions up 72-70. Freeman then hit a clutch three-pointer with 3:11 to play to give the Lions a five-point cushion. Washington never threatened again.
"I think David's shot was the one that got us the most excited, and got us ready to go," Davis said. "But I truthfully think that the team was so focused at that point, that somebody was going to hit that shot."
Freeman led the Lions with 18 points, including three three-pointers. Crane added 16 with four treys, and senior Taylor Parker scored 15 points. Junior Brennan Bechard connected on three three-pointers of his own, and finished with 13 points.
"We feel good about things," Davis said. "We're playing hard, and that's a good thing."