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Archive for Saturday, December 20, 2008

Lions vs. Firebirds: Tipoff nearing for Round 1 of city hoops showdown

Free State boys and girls play host to Lawrence High tonight

December 20, 2008

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As weird as it might seem, it’s tip-time for Free State and Lawrence High.

Playing on a Saturday because it was the only way school officials could squeeze the contest into the schedule before the winter break, the Lions and Firebirds will square off in back-to-back girls and boys games tonight at Free State High.

The girls will get things started at 6 p.m. and the boys will follow at approximately 7:30 p.m.

Because of the quirk in the schedule, three of the four teams playing tonight will do so on little rest, as they are coming off of Friday night contests that were completed less than 24 hours ago.

Lawrence High’s boys and girls swept Shawnee Mission Northwest at LHS on Friday, the girls winning 51-36 and the boys coming from behind to win, 64-56. Free State’s boys fell at home to Olathe South, 70-59. Only the FSHS girls were off on Friday.

But all four coaches agreed that playing back-to-back nights, although not ideal, should not have much of an impact on tonight’s contests.

Here’s a quick breakdown of the match-ups.

Lawrence High boys (3-2) vs. Free State boys (1-3)

These teams enter their first meeting of the season in completely different places. Free State, young, inexperienced and searching for an identity, has struggled so far this season. The Firebirds went 1-2 and placed fourth in the Bonner Springs tournament last week and followed that up with a loss to Olathe South on Friday.

The Firebirds have played 10 or 11 players in every game and coach Chuck Law still is searching for the right combination of guards and forwards that will make his team click.

Senior Chase Hoag leads the team in terms of energy and effort and senior Jake Miller, along with sophomores Alec Heline and Eric Watson, has led the Firebirds’ scoring attack thus far.

One thing the Firebirds have shown throughout most of their first four games is fantastic effort. This team plays hard and plays for a full 32 minutes. Small lapses in focus throughout all four games have ultimately cost Free State.

Lawrence High, meanwhile, is nearly the complete opposite. Led by senior guard Dorian Green, the Lions are off to a fast start with key wins over SM Northwest and Washburn Rural already to their credit.

Green and senior Lance Kilburn lead the Lions in scoring (27 and 16 points per game, respectively) and the rest of the team has become a strong supporting cast.

Lawrence High will win if...

... The Lions continue to play unselfish basketball and run everything through Green. This team is clicking on all cylinders right now — defense included — and will look to pick up its second straight victory in this rivalry with a balance and experience.

Free State will win if...

... The Firebirds get strong play inside and find some way to slow down Green. Free State surely has resigned itself to the fact that Green will get his points, but holding the Lions’ standout under his average would be a nice accomplishment for the Firebirds and would help keep them in the game. This one’s at home, the Firebirds need to start fast to get the home crowd in it early and will have a chance to win if they execute every offensive possession and don’t suffer those mental lapses that have cost them.

Lawrence High girls (2-3) vs. Free State girls (2-1)

As it was a season ago, this is a classic match-up of guards against post players.

In Ashli Hill, Chantay Caron and Ashleigh Allam, the Firebirds have a trio of inside players that are as good as any in the state. Two of the three — Hill and Caron — are headed to Division I basketball programs in two years and all three are capable of controlling the paint on offense and defense.

Free State’s biggest question mark this season is guard play. The Firebirds have had trouble handling pressure and will need to control the tempo in order to be in the ballgame.

The LHS girls lost senior Tania Jackson to an ACL injury and then lost junior guard Cassie Potter to an elbow injury in the season opener. Despite those losses, the Lions have played very well in the early going.

Senior Taylor Bird has been a force and juniors Haley Parker and Jasmyn Turner have become options 1a and 1b for the Lions. When that trio is on — scoring, playing smart, and playing unselfish — the Lions still are tough to beat.

Lawrence High will win if...

The Big 3 control the game. One of the biggest strengths of the LHS team is defense, and all three of the Lions’ go-to players are capable of getting steals that lead to easy buckets. Despite their lack of depth, the Lions will look to push the tempo and will win the game if it’s a high-scoring affair.

Free State will win if...

... The game is in the 30s. A low-scoring contest means the Lions are not running and Free State is controlling the tempo. The more the game is played in the halfcourt, the better the Firebirds’ chances because of the ability of their post players to impact the game. The Firebirds also will have a better chance if any of the Lions encounter foul trouble.

Tipoff is less than 3 hours away. It’s Lions against Firebirds, girls and boys, Round 1 of this year’s city hoops showdown.

Check back with LJWorld.com tonight for updates from the game as well as postgame recaps, stats and reaction.

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