Lawrence High boys basketball coach Mike Lewis has seen enough from his players this season to know it’s not just when they’re knocking down shots that LHS has the best chance to win. When the Lions get scrappy, they truly are at their best.
With a focused energy on defense and a feisty approach on the glass, LHS earned its most notable victory of the season Friday against Olathe South, the No. 2 team in Class 6A.
The timing, senior guard Jake Mosiman said, couldn’t have been better for Lawrence (6-3), which begins playing tonight at the three-day Topeka Invitational Tournament.
“I think because they’re a ranked team in the state,” Mosiman said of beating O-South, “that gives us a lot of confidence to go in and say we can beat whoever.”
First on deck for LHS is Wichita East (6-2) — 6:45 tip tonight at Topeka West. The Aces have won five straight and are one of many teams, according to Lewis, who could end up tournament champions come Saturday night.
“It has that same feel of a sub-state,” Lewis said of the TIT, “where one team could get hot and really get on a roll.”
Three ranked teams — Olathe South, Highland Park (No. 2, 4A) and Kansas City, Kan., Washington (No. 7, 5A) — will be among the eight trying to leave Topeka with a title. LHS sophomore guard Anthony Bonner said Mosiman’s game-winning three-pointer against Shawnee Mission Northwest Jan. 8 (the first of two straight victories) ignited Lawrence’s growing confidence. The Lions, he added, feel they have as legitimate a chance to win the tournament — in which they finished third last season — as the ranked teams.
“It’s gonna take playing as a team, like we did against Olathe South,” Bonner said, “spreading out scoring, getting rebounds. We’ve definitely gotta crash the boards. The last two games we’ve crashed the boards and that’s led to success.”
Lewis hopes LHS can continue that trend for thee consecutive days at Topeka.
“It’s gonna take a balanced effort with nine or 10 of our players,” Lewis said, adding the substitutes in the rotation need to keep Lawrence competitive when they’re on the floor.
Bench production proved crucial when Lawrence knocked off O-South (whom LHS could play again Friday in the semifinals). Back-up forwards Jacob Seratte and Sterling Fuller stepped up not only with their scoring, but also gave LHS a defensive presence inside.
“That provides a lot of momentum and confidence for our group,” Lewis said. “So I hope the Jacob Serattes and the Sterling Fullers can do that for us.”
No matter who stars for LHS, Mosiman said the Lions will be confident.
“I think in high school sports anybody can beat anybody on any night,” he said. “So going in there we shouldn’t be intimidated like some teams could be going into this tournament.”