Lawrence High's boys basketball team started Friday's game against Olathe East just as LHS coach Chris Davis expected the Lions to -- slowly.
It had been a week since they last played, securing a draining victory at No. 1 Free State High.
But when the Hawks pushed the rusty Lions to the limit in the third quarter, no one expected LHS to respond like it did, digging out a 70-65 victory Friday night at home.
"I was real concerned after the Free State game that we'd be able to start another game and come out strong," Davis said. "We sure caught fire in the second half, and the boys really decided to play."
Olathe East looked untouchable in the third quarter. After coming out of the locker room with a 30-25 lead, the Hawks hit 10 of 13 shots in the frame, including their first five three-point attempts. As their lead grew as large as 13 points, the Olathe East players displayed some cockiness and swagger, which touched a nerve with the Lawrence veterans.
The offensive firepower that sparked the Hawks to a 27-point third quarter vanished at the start of the fourth. Olathe East's first field goal of the final frame didn't come until a Blake Bales layin with 3:02 to play.
But no one in the gym seemed to notice as Lawrence's Chance Riley gave the Lions their first lead with a three-pointer on the next trip down the floor, 60-59.
While Riley's shot was in the air, the entire gym went silent, and the crowd exploded when the shot splashed the net. It was at that point that Olathe East cracked with 1:52 remaining.
On the Hawks' ensuing possession, on a loose-ball scramble, East's Adam Parks was called for a technical foul, sending Brennan Bechard to the free-throw line, where, during the final 1:33, he and Larry Barber put the game away. In that 93-second stretch, Bechard and Barber combined to go 10-for-10 from the line as the exhausted Hawks stood with their hands on their waists.
"That's what wins ball games," Bechard said of his charity-stripe showcase. "The crowd helped us out a ton."
Bechard's pristine 9-of-9 night at the line gave him 15 points, making him one of three Lions in double figures. Tony Anderson scored seven of his 13 in the first quarter, while Tyler Knight led the Lions with 17.
LHS girls 54, Olathe East 42
Just as was the case for the boys, free-throw shooting was the key for the Lions offensively. Actually, it was about all they had going for them on that end of the floor.
While LHS hit just 15 of 50 field-goal attempts, the girls went 23-of-28 from the free-throw line, highlighted by Drew Huff's 12-of-14 performance, which offset her 0-for-10 night from the field.
East led 19-7 after one quarter, with it's fast-paced attack led by junior Danielle McCray, a Kansas University commit who was playing in front of Jayhawk coach Bonnie Henrickson.
"We knew they were gonna pressure us, but we just didn't handle it well," LHS coach Kristin Mallory said. "We stepped up and showed a lot of heart."
The Lions displayed their determination after McCray hit a baseline jumper midway through the second quarter. Sydney Wilson then led the Lions on an 11-0 run to close out the half and pull to within one at 25-24.
Huff and Wilson made the play of the night at the beginning of the fourth quarter, when Huff made a half-court pass to a streaking Wilson under the hoop for a reverse layin. The play allowed both players to let out a sigh of relief with a 35-31 lead, and it was on cruise control from there.
Wilson was one of four Lions in double-figures with 12 points, while Kayla Nolte led the team with 14.
"It was a relaxer as well as a momentum-builder," Wilson said of the highlight. "I think once we got the lead and the momentum, they started to struggle a little bit, and that helped us."