Lawrence High’s boys basketball players kept it loose in practice on Friday. They needed a day to rest both physically and mentally after beating Gardner-Edgerton, 62-45, in the first-round of Class 6A sub-state on Thursday and hearing that assistant coach Kermit Aldridge had a turn for the worse in his battle with cancer. Now, a win away from a state tournament appearance, they want to re-energize.
The Lions (17-4, ranked No. 5 in 6A by the Kansas Basketball Coaches Association) will face Olathe East (17-4, ranked No. 7) at 7 p.m. today at Olathe East. The Hawks won the lone regular-season matchup in overtime, 63-57, on Jan. 17.
“We definitely want to beat these guys this time,” sophomore Justin Roberts said. “Our year’s on the line. We just want to go out and go into their home court and try to do what we can to win the game because it’s win or go home now.”
Olathe East guard Caelan Neal scored 19 points in the regular-season meeting. The Hawks also feature 6-foot-8 senior Ezra Talbert, a Liberty University signee, and 6-foot-7 sophomore Josiah Talbert.
“We know they’re big and they’re athletic,” LHS coach Mike Lewis said. “We know that we’ll get into their environment and it’ll be a good test for us on the road. But I really like our guys, and as weird as it seems, I kind of like to go on the road on occasion and play without that home-court pressure that we sometimes we feel.”
The Hawks will likely play a lot of zone defense to limit drives to the basket and utilize their size, but the Lions are confident they will be able to handle it.
“We’ve seen what they’re capable of, they know what we can do,” senior Connor Henrichs said. “I think it’ll be a good game overall, and hopefully we can come out with a win.”
Free State basketball
Free State High’s boys basketball players know what it’s like to be the lowest seed remaining in sub-state. It’s the same spot they were in last year, and they hope to have to the same result — a state tournament berth.
The Firebirds (12-9) will go on the road to play Wichita Southeast (16-5, ranked No. 8) at 7 p.m. today.
“We’ve always kind of pride ourselves on flying in under the radar,” FSHS coach Chuck Law said.
Senior Cole Moreano, who was limited in Free State’s 74-60 win over Derby in the first round of sub-state after his right shoulder twice popped out of the joint, participated in non-contact drills in practice Friday.
“It feels good,” said Moreano, who is expected to play his regular minutes tonight. “It feels better than it did (Wednesday). It’s a little sore but I’m all right. I’ll be fine.”
The Firebirds have won seven of their last eight games away from Lawrence. Whether it’s the uptempo style or just a different mentality playing on the road, they are happy with their success.
“I just think we play better when we’re away from home,” Law said. “Fewer distractions, just less going on mentally. When we’re away from home, we just go and play basketball, and I think that helps us.”
Moreano added: “We’re just better away than we are here. It doesn’t make sense but that’s the way it is.”