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Archive for Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Lions eye payback at state

March 5, 2008

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LHS looking for revenge

On the 6A level, Lawrence High is after revenge in its state opener rematch. The seventh-seeded Lady Lions draw 22-1 Blue Valley High on Wednesday. Enlarge video

High School Spodcasters

Girls made it; boys still rolling

After a season's worth of talk about the Class 6A state tournament, the Lawrence High girls finally punched their ticket to state last weekend with a sub-state championship victory over Olathe Northwest. Join Journal-World high school sports editor Matt Tait and a few members of the LHS team as they chat about winning sub-state and heading to Emporia. The Lawrence High boys basketball team shook off a rough regular season, got hot at the right time and rolled all the way the Class 6A state tournament. Journal-World high school sports editor Matt Tait and LHS beat writer Jesse Temple welcome the Lions into the spodcast studio to talk about their run and their role as the ultimate underdog.

— Members of Lawrence High's girls basketball team all seem to have their own take on what went wrong the first time the Lions squared off against Blue Valley High six weeks ago.

"We played really, really bad," Lions guard Danielle Bird said.

"We were kind of in a funk back then," noted coach Kristin Mallory.

"We were looking to score individually and not as a team," lamented forward Tania Jackson.

All those reasons added up to a 71-62 loss to the Tigers in the championship game of the Capital City Classic - a contest in which LHS fell behind by 18 points before rallying to make a game of it.

Today, the Lions get their chance at payback in the first round of the Class 6A state tournament. Seventh-seeded Lawrence (18-4) is set to tip off against No. 2 Blue Valley (21-1) at 3 p.m.

And LHS is counting on playing like an entirely different team than the one that showed up for three quarters in the teams' first go-around.

"They're not going to see only five minutes of us," Jackson said. "They're going to see the whole 32 minutes of us this time. That's one reason why we wanted to play this team again so bad. We didn't show them who we really were until there were five minutes left."

For 27 minutes, Lawrence played nowhere near its potential in that first matchup, missing shots from all over the court and generally looking lethargic. But that isn't what Mallory has focused on for the state tournament. More important to her were those final five minutes when LHS stormed back, scoring 25 points while cutting its deficit to five.

"The girls saw that if they played with heart, things can happen," Mallory said. "That was a tough game for us. I think we've finally got it figured out."

Lawrence will need to figure out how to defend Blue Valley's Taylor Hanson, who lit up the Lions for 28 points last time.

"You obviously can't sag off her," Mallory said. "You've got to guard her from the other end of the court."

Hanson and Brianna Eldridge were the offensive stars for the Tigers, accounting for 44 points combined. Eldridge scored 10 of her points at the free-throw line - where Blue Valley had 45 attempts.

Bird and Jackson led LHS with 16 and 13 points, respectively.

Part of the Lions' problem was their futility from the three-point line. Lawrence missed its first 14 tries before bombarding the Tigers with six threes during its comeback attempt.

Bird said knowing how badly her team played and still only losing by nine was encouraging.

So what has changed the most since that time for the Lions?

"Just the pace of our game," Bird said. "We're much more comfortable with each other from the beginning. Our defense is better, and we haven't been fouling as much."

Lawrence is making its first trip to the state tournament in 15 years, but Mallory said she doesn't anticipate her Lions being overwhelmed by the situation.

"The great thing about this group right now is they're not satisfied with just getting there," Mallory said. "I think some first-time teams, it's just, 'Hey, we're happy to be here.' These guys aren't just happy to be here. They want to go out and do some things."

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