After ending the regular season with losses in three of their last four games, members of Lawrence High’s boys basketball team trust their resiliency to carry them out of a funk just in time for the postseason.
“We’ve played some good teams and it’s been a rough stretch,” LHS coach Mike Lewis said of losses to Shawnee Mission South, Olathe East and rival Free State the past two weeks. “There’s no getting around it.”
The most troubling setback came just five days ago, in the regular-season finale at Free State. Senior Lions guard Jake Mosiman said it wasn’t Lawrence’s night and the stats backed him up. LHS made just 13 of its 49 shots (27 percent).
“We couldn’t shoot, we couldn’t make layups — in the first half, at least. It was crazy,” Mosiman said. “Everything was rolling out, and that’s not us. We know that.”
Neither Lewis, nor starters Mosiman, Austin Abbott, Drake Hofer, Anthony Bonner, Justin Roberts and their teammates, expect a repeat of the nightmarish shooting today, when Lawrence plays host to Blue Valley West (11-9) in the first round of sub-state, at 7 p.m.
“We’ve really let that go,” Lewis said. “That was a fluke and the kids know that.”
The Lions (12-8, ranked No. 7 in Class 6A) have held high postseason expectations all year and their recent 1-3 stretch hasn’t changed that.
“We’re not the type of group that will sit around and pout about it,” Lewis said. “Our guys re-focus and use that as motivation.”
In preparing for the Jaguars, of the Eastern Kansas League, Lawrence’s coaches and players have zeroed in on 6-foot-7 forward Joey Lillis and his team’s motion offense. Lewis said BVW works each offensive possession to the fullest and will pass the ball “25 or 30 times” to find the best shot. Part of that strategy involves wearing out defenders.
“They’ll come down and just screen and re-screen and just beat you up with screens,” Lewis said.
Lillis most often benefits from the Jaguars’ patience and routinely scores in double figures. Mosiman said the Lions, though undersized, are up for the challenge of defending Lillis and the BVW interior game.
“Their strength is their big guys and our strength is our guards,” Mosiman said, “so we’re gonna play that to our advantage.”
Defensively, Lewis said all five Lions on the floor will have to communicate, be in position and take sound gambles through pressure when they can.
Mosiman said the Lions are excited to execute the game plan and open sub-state.
“The postseason is just a different season. You’re starting over completely,” he said. “We’re gonna come out with a fire that we need to win these two games to get to state and just show everybody what we can actually do.”
The LHS-BVW winner moves on to a sub-state final on Friday against either Olathe South (15-5) or Olathe North (5-15).