The Lawrence-Free State high school rivalry already is cooler than most because it involves so many players going against former teammates.
Here's how the students from the winning school tonight could make it even better, in a trend-setting sort of way: Don't be so trite as to storm the court upon the sounding of the buzzer. Act as if you've been there before. Act as if you expect to win. Do as the fans in Allen Fieldhouse do. Stand up and clap, soak it in for a minute, and then leave the building.
"We're looking for all the positive things from this friendly rivalry to come out tonight," said Ron Commons, athletic director of the host school, Lawrence High. "We're hoping to see a lot sportsmanship. We're expecting a big crowd. We'd like people to come early and, if they could, carpool. That would help with our parking-lot situation."
To accommodate those who want to watch the boys game live but don't arrive in time to snare a seat, Commons said Sunflower Broadband Channel Six would supply a live feed of the game (telecast on a delay basis to the general public at 10:30) in the school cafeteria.
"It will be on a great big TV screen, and we won't charge them," Commons said.
Here's the thing about storming the court: It can prevent the players from congratulating each other after the game. For some, this could be the last time they play basketball on the same court together. The moment means something to the players, and they deserve it.
The girls game precedes the boys game and tips off at 5:30.
It's Senior Night for Lawrence High, so it's a good time to let the coaches of the four teams weigh in with comments on the senior classes, and it's a good time to play word-association, putting the coaches on the spot by asking them to sum up each senior in one word.
LHS girls coach Kristin Mallory was on her way out the door of Allen Fieldhouse, where she watched the first half of Kansas University's women's team's valiant effort Wednesday night against Oklahoma, and was on her way to watch her son's game.
"What great attitudes," Mallory said of her seniors. "They're very team-oriented, not worried about how many minutes they get, their stats, getting their names in the paper. They're all about the team."
Mallory agreed to the task:
Abby Vestal: "Tough."
Hannah Somers: "Shooter."
Sydnei Tolefree: "Athletic."
Katelyn Hobbs: "Girlie."
Free State girls coach Bryan Duncan said of his seniors: "They're special. They've raised the level of achievement for the girls Free State basketball program since their sophomore year and have raised the bar each year, to where we have extremely high expectations. They're intelligent and top-notch basketball players and people. They were media darlings all year, and really for three years. And I think that's a real sign of the girls' popularity, not just amongst themselves and with the coaches, but with everybody."
The talkative Duncan somehow was able to keep it to one word on each player:
Jenna Brantley: "Dynamic."
Kelsey Harrison: "Diverse."
Allie Hock: "Shooter."
Lauren Kimball: "Leader."
Jessica Scott: "Subtle."
LHS boys coach Chris Davis has a deep senior class.
"We have some basketball players, some baseball players, some football players and some track athletes," Davis said. "We've got this kind of diverse group of athletes who share a common bond with basketball. When they kind of get it together on the same page, it's pretty good. Obviously, we've shown that by some of the teams we've been able to beat. It's been quite a season."
His one-word descriptions captured that diversity.
Daniel Green: "Fire."
Kevin Logan: "Athletic."
Jace McNabb: "Driven."
John Novotny: "Physical."
Nathan Padia: "Smooth."
Chance Riley: "Versatile."
Nick Wagner: "Unselfish."
Chuck Law is in his second year as Free State's head coach and is grateful to his seniors for making his transition one seat down the bench a successful one.
"I like how they stuck with me and stuck with this program," Law said. "We have had a lot of defections, but these four guys stuck it out and bought into what we're trying to accomplish with this basketball program, and I'll be forever indebted to them for that reason."
Law's word on each:
Christian Ballard: "Imposing."
Nick Devin: "Intensity."
Jamar Reese: "Wherewithal."
Kyle Schreiner: "Competitive."
It promises to be a most compelling, ultra-intense doubleheader that best can be summed up in one word: sportsmanship.