It will forever be known in the history books as the Baby Powder Game. But it will be remembered for something completely different by the teams that played.
Friday night at Lawrence High, in the regular season finale for both teams, the LHS boys upended Free State, 49-34, and in doing so won their sixth game in a row.
For the Firebirds, Friday’s loss was their latest in a painful 19-game losing streak that dates back to December.
For the Lions, the game marked a final sendoff for seniors Bobby Davis, Paul Eltschinger, Chebon Dawes, Robbie Wright, Lance Kilburn and, of course, Dorian Green.
The bulk of that group came off the floor together one last time with 56 seconds to play and the Lions leading, 46-34.
“The buzzer-beaters are fun,” Bobby Davis said. “But to be able to come off the court together as seniors was incredible. It’s tough. That’s the last time we’ll ever see that gym that packed with us actually playing. But what a great way to finish.”
The beginning wasn’t bad either.
As public address announcer Brad Stoll introduced LHS senior Dorian Green, the Lawrence students launched fists full of baby power into the air. The gesture was a nod to Green’s LeBron James-like status at LHS. Before every game James plays with the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers, he reports to the scorer’s table, cups some chalk and heaves it triumphantly into the air. The fans go wild every time.
They went wild on Friday at LHS, too, but it was where the baby powder landed that caused a slight problem. As a light layer of powder fell across nearly half of the gymnasium floor, officials deemed the surface too dangerous to play. After Lawrence’s Robbie Wright opened the game by swishing a three-pointer, play was stopped at the 6:54 mark and a 15-minute delay followed.
“They were doing it as a compliment (to Dorian),” LHS coach Chris Davis said. “And they didn’t mean anything negative by it. I think they actually felt bad about doing it because it put us in a bad position.”
The Lions were assessed a technical foul for the crowd’s antics and Free State’s Douglas Compton hit one of two free throws awarded.
The point, although small on the scoreboard, kick-started a Free State offense that has struggled to score all season. Senior guard Connor Monarez scored five first-quarter points and center Michael Swank added four and the Firebirds led 13-12 after one quarter. What’s more FSHS hit 5 of 12 shots from the floor during the opening eight minutes.
That Firebirds’ 42-percent, first-quarter shooting clip would not have been as significant had it not been for what transpired during the rest of the game. Although they stayed within hoping distance with their free throw shooting, the Firebirds made just three field goals the rest of the night — none in the second quarter, one in the third and two in the fourth.
“I wasn’t pleased at all with our offense tonight,” Free State coach Chuck Law said. “We took a lot of ill-advised shots and we forced a lot of things that weren’t in the gameplan. That really upset our rhythm.”
So did the Lions.
LHS coach Chris Davis said he counted a total of 12 different defenses that his team played at one point or another Friday night.
“When you throw that many defenses at people, they never really know what to do,” Bobby Davis said. “There were a few times where we didn’t even know what defense we were playing.”
It hardly mattered. While the LHS defense made the difference, it was the Lions’ offense that allowed them to pull away. In particular, Green’s offense.
After struggling in the first half and taking a 19-15 lead into the locker room, the Lions — and Green — came out with much more fire in the second half.
“Coach told me I had to go in the second half, I had to get to the basket,” said Green, who led all scorers with 18 points and finished the regular season with a 23.2 points-per-game average. “They were dictating the way we were playing on offense and we needed to take control.”
After Bobby Davis and Swank traded buckets to open the third quarter, Green scored the next six points on jumpers, giving the Lions a 27-17 lead and forcing the Firebirds to call timeout.
Green scored eight points and dished all three of his assists in the third quarter and the Lions (12-8) took a comfortable 33-20 lead into the fourth. Their lead might not have been quite as comfortable had it not been for a huge three-pointer from Kilburn. Although he scored just five points on the night, Kilburn’s three-pointer after a reversed out-of-bounds call gave possession to the Lions, pushed the LHS lead to 30-18. The Firebirds (1-19) never got closer than eight points the rest of the way.
Swank and junior Ryan Scott led Free State with nine points apiece. Scott was one of three junior varsity regulars (along with Evan Manning and Bo Schneider) that played extensive minutes in the contest.
Junior Marcus Ray was the second leading scorer for the Lions, chipping in with seven points off the bench while Wright added six and Bobby Davis and Paul Eltschinger finished with four each.
Next up for both teams is next week’s sub-state tournament, which will be played Wednesday and Friday.
The eighth-seeded Firebirds will open on the road at top seed Shawnee Mission Northwest. The Lions will be the No. 3 seed and will host their first-round game but won’t know their opponent until today.
It will either be Shawnee Mission South or Shawnee Mission West. The two Shawnee Mission schools will flip a coin today for the No. 5 seed and the loser will travel to LHS.
If either team should win its first round game, it would play for a sub-state title — and the right to go to state — on Friday at Free State High.