Before Wednesday night’s sub-state opener against Shawnee Mission West, Lawrence High boys basketball coach Chris Davis talked to his team about its daytime attire for the postseason.
“As long as we’re alive, we’re going shirts and ties,” Davis told the Lions at the end of Tuesday’s practice. “And I want us to wear them out.”
So far so good.
The Lions advanced to tonight’s 5 p.m. sub-state title game against Shawnee Mission East with a 28-26 victory against West. The win against the Vikings was not quite as close as the score indicates, but it did remind the Lions of one thing — at this time of year, anything can happen.
Tonight, one team will advance to the Class 6A state tournament, the third-seeded Lions (13-8, winners of seven straight) or the second-seeded Lancers (15-6).
In the first meeting between SME and LHS, the Lancers dominated inside in the second half, turning a 25-all tie at the half into a 44-33 lead. The Lions clawed their way back into the game during the final quarter, cutting the deficit to as few as five — 58-53 — with 1:20 to play. But East stayed poised down the stretch and iced the 66-58 victory with free throws.
According to the LHS players, however, it was the beginning of the game, not the end, that cost the Lions in January.
“They’re physical, they’re aggressive and they came out ready from the start,” said LHS senior Dorian Green, who led all scorers with 34 points in the first meeting. “The biggest thing for us is to come out strong and match their intensity.”
That loss dropped LHS to 4-4 and the Lions have gone 9-4 since. They’ve also tightened up the screws on their offense and defense.
That much was obvious Wednesday, when LHS got key contributions from everyone on the team. Green led the way with 15 points, but Lance Kilburn, Robbie Wright, Marcus Ray, Paul Eltschinger and Michael Stanford each scored a key basket in the win. When a team only scores 28 points, and one guy has 15 of those, there aren’t many points to go around. But the rest of the Lions made the most of their opportunities, particularly at the most critical times.
Green and the Lions are expecting a return to more traditional basketball tonight, complete with fastbreaks, turnovers, three-pointers and personal fouls. Thanks to SM West’s gameplan, all of the aforementioned elements were in short supply on Wednesday, and that forced the Lions to alter their attack.
Tonight, attack is exactly what the Lions want to do, particularly at Free State High, where LHS figures to have the luxury of a pseudo-home-court advantage.
“We are at our best when everybody’s scoring,” Green said. “Playing at Free State should help. Even though it’s not at home, it is in town and hopefully that will benefit us.”