Archive for Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Tait: Tourneys a preview of success

December 19, 2007


All eyes of local high school hoops fans are on Thursday's Lawrence High-Free State showdowns at the Jungle - mine included.

However, regardless of the outcome of those contests, it seems the games that have been played before them have provided us with a sneak peek at exactly what we're dealing with regarding all four city teams.

Tournament play, at any time of year, has a way of making athletes rise to the occasion. No one enters a tournament just hoping to get better. Even if that's the message a coach is selling, the athletes themselves are gunning to win the thing.

Lawrence High's boys nearly did just that.

With all of their youth and an influx of new faces, the Lions jumped out to a fabulous start, reaching the championship game of the Blue Valley Shootout before falling to Ralston, Neb., in the title game.

LHS junior Dorian Green said he was impressed how quickly things fell into place for the new-look Lions, who lost eight seniors from last year's team.

"I'm just surprised how fast we came together," Green said. "Success came so early for us, and that's a big confidence boost for this team. I think it shows where we're at. It shows we can play with anyone."

The only thing hotter than the LHS boys are the Lawrence High girls, who shot out to a 4-0 start and reached the championship game of the Lady Saints Classic at Overland Park Aquinas.

Because of icy conditions, that game has yet to be played and now will tip off Jan. 22. That means the LHS girls are in position to win two tournaments in the same week.

After playing the title game of the Lady Saints Classic on Tuesday of that week, the Lions will open play in the Topeka Invitational on Jan. 24. If things go well there, LHS will be playing for another title on Jan. 26.

According to junior guard Taylor Bird, competing for titles and winning every game in sight was exactly what she envisioned for this season.

"It's kind of what I expected," she said.

Across town, disappointment might be the best word to describe the early going for the Free State girls. After opening the season with a victory at Maize, the Firebirds played in the Bonner Springs Metro Prep Tipoff tournament and dropped a first-round game to Shawnee Heights.

Despite the loss - 55-52 in double OT - Bryan Duncan's squad learned a lot about itself in that game.

With a handful of new faces playing prominent roles for the Firebirds, it could be just a matter of time before the FSHS girls put it together.

Things seemed to be heading in the same direction for the FSHS boys before back-to-back wins in Bonner helped the Firebirds turn the corner.

Since then, Free State has turned the corner and appears to have a better understanding of what kind of team it will be.

Point guard Kris Wilson and forward Weston Wiebe have found their footing and seem to be comfortable leading this team.

At this point, it's too tough to predict which teams will come out victorious Thursday night. But I will offer this prediction: if the sub-state bracket cooperates, all four teams could find their way to the state tournament later this season.

How about that for an encore to last year's Free State invasion of Emporia?


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