Leavenworth If Friday night was Lawrence High’s last true test before the postseason, the Lions appear to be ready.
In a packed and piping-hot Leavenworth High gymnasium, the Lions overcame a first-quarter swoon and played one of their toughest games of the season the rest of the way in a 43-40 overtime victory against the Pioneers.
The victory was big for many reasons. It moved the Lions into the No. 3 spot for sub-state seedings — temporarily, at least — marked the team’s fifth victory in its last six tries and came against a bigger, stronger Leavenworth team that was extra motivated because of last season’s sub-state loss to these same Lions.
But the biggest benefit of all from Friday’s overtime thriller was that it proved to the players and coaches in red and black that LHS is ready for the postseason.
“That’s definitely what it’s starting to feel like,” senior guard Dorian Green said. “We only have three guaranteed games left, and guys are starting to step up.”
Never was that more apparent than at the beginning of the second quarter.
After watching his team get bullied on the boards during the first eight minutes, LHS coach Chris Davis punted the idea of sitting down while making adjustments between quarters. Instead, Davis stood eight feet onto the floor with his players huddled around him and challenged them to get tough.
“We were being manhandled, and it was time for that to stop,” Davis said.
It did. Almost immediately.
If the Pioneers look back at the game film of this one, they likely will cringe at the lost opportunity. Leavenworth dominated the first quarter physically and in terms of tempo, but led by just five (13-8) heading into the second quarter.
Green was largely responsible for keeping the Lions close, and in the second quarter he put them ahead. He scored the first seven points of the second quarter and added six more by quarter’s end, giving him 16 for the half.
That allowed the Lions to play most of the second half with a lead, something Davis said was critical for his team’s chances because it allowed the Lions to stay tightly packed in the paint in their zone defense.
But as has become so common this season, Green saved his best for last.
With turnovers haunting the Lions down the stretch — LHS committed three of its 10 turnovers on consecutive possessions late in the fourth — Leavenworth whittled a seven-point lead down to one. And when Nino Williams tipped in his own miss with 37 seconds to play, the Pioneers grabbed the lead and put the Lions on the ropes.
But with the poise of a player many years older, Green drove to the paint and was fouled with 21 seconds left. He hit one of two free throws, tying the game at 38. On the other end, the Pioneers again grabbed the lead — this time with 11 seconds to play — when Jeb Greenberg rebounded a missed free throw and converted a layup.
The Lions immediately inbounded the ball to Green, who went coast-to-coast for the game-tying bucket with six seconds to play.
“Dorian is at his best in transition,” Davis said.
Thrilled with the victory, Green was not about to take all of the credit.
“Chebon (Dawes) set a great screen for me, and when I turned the corner it was wide-open,” he said.
Earlier in the fourth, Dawes converted his only bucket of the night on a rebound after an ill-advised three-point miss. And in the final seconds, he hustled back down the floor and intercepted a pass to send things to overtime.
The Lions (10-8) scored just three points in overtime, but held the Pioneers to none. Green finished with a game-high 27 points, including two free throws in OT.
“Who scored really doesn’t tell the story,” Davis said. “In the locker room, I slapped the hand of every single player on this team because it really was a team deal, and every player we have contributed to this victory.”