By the start of the third overtime, it had to have started feeling a bit like Groundhog Day for Mike Lewis and the Lawrence High boys basketball team.
Though LHS appeared on the cusp of a win in regulation and then in the first and second overtimes, the same scene kept playing out: The Lions had the chance to end the game from the free-throw line, but ultimately gave Shawnee Mission North extra opportunities to hang around.
The Lions proved relentless, though, as they scored the first five points of the third overtime and held on for the 67-61, 3OT victory on Thursday night at Shawnee Mission North.
“We should have made some free throws there earlier to maybe finish off the game,” Lewis said. “You’ve got to hand it to both teams. They decided to challenge each other and compete, and nobody was going to let it go. So I’m really proud of our guys.”
LHS’s trio of talented juniors — KJ Pritchard (30 points), Logan Henrichs (15 points) and junior Anthony Buffalomeat (13 points and 11 rebounds) — combined for 58 points to lead the Lions, who jumped ahead and looked poised to steal the victory as time wound down in the fourth quarter.
A three-point play from Buffalomeat put LHS ahead, 47-45, with under two minutes to play, but three missed free throws gave the Indians life before Devon Lyons (11 points, 10 rebounds) coasted in for a layup just before time expired to send the game to OT.
The Lions were on top again in overtime, and again on the line with chances to end it, but a few more missed free throws allowed Austin Danner (20 points) to hit the game-tying three, SMN’s first and only make from behind the arc.
Pritchard nearly won it for the Lions in the second overtime, scoring six straight points to put them ahead, 59-58, but North was able to tie the game from the line and deny LHS a clean look at the basket on the other end.
No sweat. Lewis gathered the players in the short intermission and asked them to dig deep.
Showing little fatigue from the 40 minutes of play behind them, the Lions rose to Lewis’ challenge.
Pritchard started the period with an aggressive driving layup, and Buffalomeat drilled a three-pointer from the right corner to give the Lions — who allowed only two points in the final four minute overtime — the distance needed to pull away with the win.
“The made shots fuel your fire,” Lewis said. “The made shots are the ones that when you’re that tired and have been playing for that long give you that extra energy.”
The game seemed destined for a last-second finish from the start, as neither team could gain much separation in what was a meticulously paced matchup.
LHS (3-5) trailed 25-21 at the half but shot 50 percent in the period (9-for-18).
“That was our game plan,” Lewis said, “was to come in and slow things down a notch, and then just compete and not leave anything behind.”
Lewis was pleased with how the Lions — who also received five points and two loud blocks from sophomore Brad Strauss — spread the ball out, defended and competed throughout the night.
And, of course, missed chances aside, the end result wasn’t too bad, either.
“I never really thought that we would give in,” Lewis said. “If anything, it just shows that we have some character and competitiveness in us, (which) is maybe a sign of good things to come.”
The Lions have another tough road test at 7 tonight at Olathe South.