The Lawrence High boys basketball team energetically warmed up for practice Monday. Fade-away half-court shots were attempted. Alley-oop dunks were converted.
Assistant coach David Schneider, just a couple minutes after arriving, walked off the floor shaking his head.
“There’s too much energy in this gym,” Schneider said.
Yes, the Lawrence High and Free State coaching staffs are happy their teams are energized for tonight’s city showdown at LHS. But they’re also aware that too much energy could make for a tired team, one prone to making mistakes.
LHS coach Mike Lewis didn’t win a city-showdown game last season, making his career record 0-2. He did learn from the experiences, though, especially about how to prepare his team.
The routines stay the same. The crowd will be bigger and louder than usual, but Lewis understands that his team needs to play loose.
“If they’re tight and worrying about who we’re playing or about the atmosphere, that usually leads to pretty tight play,” Lewis said.
He also learned about coaching in a hyped environment, which the LHS gym figures to be tonight.
“You learn how to try to keep your emotions and thoughts together when the gym is rattling your brain and you’re trying to keep on task,” Lewis said. “You can be distracted and definitely caught up in the moment.”
Free State coach Chuck Law declined to comment on his team Monday night, citing an internal matter at Free State.
Lawrence junior KJ Pritchard is nervous for the game but also has been looking forward to the two city-showdown games all year. He hasn’t talked to his friends at Free State in some time.
“Not close to the game,” Pritchard said.
Lawrence (4-8), led by Pritchard and juniors Anthony Buffalomeat and Logan Henrichs, finished seventh at the Topeka Invitational Tournament last weekend. Free State (6-5), led by senior Eric Watson and junior Georgi Funtarov, took sixth at the McPherson Invitational.
Both teams are looking for a boost they can ride into the end of their seasons. Lewis compared last year’s environment to a substate or state tournament game.
“It’s a good test to see where we’re at,” Lewis said.