Olathe Apparently, no one inside Olathe Northwest's gymnasium was safe from Lawrence High's stifling defensive pressure Friday night.
Not even an elementary-school-aged boy, who was watching the game as part of an open house event for future Ravens. The youth found himself being blind-sided near the court by the Lions' hustling Brennan Bechard, who knocked the boy down as he dove out of bounds for a loose ball.
The LHS senior quickly helped the youngster to his feet. The two exchanged smiles, and neither was hurt.
The same could not be said for O-Northwest, though, as Lawrence's intense pressure helped the Lions escape with a 50-43 victory.
"Our defense was just huge on a night where we just didn't come to play at the start," LHS junior point guard Kristian Pope said of the Lions' second-half defensive stand that helped them secure their third straight victory.
Lawrence's run-and-jump defense especially was critical late in the third quarter when the Lions (6-2) forced six consecutive turnovers in the final 1:47 -- turning a four-point deficit into a 33-27 lead by the start of the fourth.
"We haven't really had to run the press so far this season, but we've worked on it in practice for situations like this," LHS coach Chris Davis said. "Tonight it proved to be the difference."
Lawrence -- which had started the second half of the season with convincing victories over both third-ranked Leavenworth and previously unbeaten Shawnee Mission Northwest -- should have known something was awry as soon as it entered the Ravens gym. The program listed the Lions roster as that of the Cougars from SMNW.
From there O-Northwest hopped out to a 4-0 lead. Then big man Kirk Matthew muscled up in the post, scoring 12 of his game-high 14 points in the first 16 minutes.
"We definitely overlooked them," said LHS guard Tyler Knight, whose 10 points trailed only Tony Anderson's 12 for team-high honors. "We knew they hadn't won a game, so we basically just went in with a big head."
That all changed though with the Ravens quick start. After a motivating halftime speech from Davis, Lawrence High found a renewed fire in the second half.
A putback by Ian Handshy with 2:42 to go in the third cut Northwest's lead to 27-25. A minute later Bechard had a pretty feed inside to Anderson for an uncontested lay-in for the tie which then led to the Lions' real fun.
Pope got a steal and quick lay-up for the lead, then came up with another loose ball and was fouled. He hit both free throws before Freeman ended the scoring frenzy with a steal and drive 10 seconds later.
"Hey, it wasn't exactly pretty. I know that for sure," Davis said. "But we found a way to win the game, and sometimes those kind of games are just as effective."
LHS girls 53, Olathe Northwest 23
Despite the game being out of hand early, the Lions actually were able to learn a few things from the lopsided victory.
"We really wanted to slow the ball down and run as many different sets as we could," said LHS coach Kristin Mallory, whose team improved to 4-3.
LHS senior Megan Klingler led the Lions in scoring with 16 points and also grabbed nine rebounds. But Mallory might have been more impressed with point guard Drew Huff's ability to run the offense and finding open shooters Sidney Wilson and Lacey Elmore.
Huff tallied 10, while Elmore added eight, and Alex Harvey came off the bench to score nine.