OVERLAND PARK — Mike Lewis, with an untucked button-down shirt and giddy smile to match, emerged from the road boys' basketball locker room at Blue Valley North High School.
His voice was hoarse, perhaps from all the yelling during his team's 71-52 win in the sub-state championship. Or perhaps it was from the locker room celebration, with shouts of joy commemorating the team's accomplishment — a trip to state for the fourth straight year.
"We're a tough team. We're able to face some adversity and dig in as teammates and figure things out," said the Lawrence High coach. "On the biggest stage — that's when you want to be at your best, right?"
It was the story of their season.
The Lions, now 13-9 on the year, were headed in the wrong direction. At one point they had dropped five games in a row and were below .500 with just a few weeks until sub-state competition.
Instead of falling apart, though, they rallied — past four straight opponents, past Shawnee Mission Northwest in the first round of sub-state and again past Blue Valley North on Saturday, though the final game itself fit anything but that model.
The Lions dominated the first two quarters, locking in defensively after allowing six points in the opening 3 1/2 minutes of the game. LHS allowed only five points over the ensuing 12 1/2 minutes, holding the Mustangs to 4-for-13 (30.8 percent) shooting and forcing 11 turnovers in the first half.
"I thought we were tough," Lewis said, "and we were smart."
The Lions built up their lead with a pair of runs — the first sparked by a mistake, no less.
After surrendering an and-one to Shawn Hendershot, the sophomore picked up a technical for taunting the Lions. Hendershot made his free throw to tie the game at six but the ensuing technical free throws, knocked down by Trey Quartlebaum, led to an 11-0 LHS run.
The Lions would one-up that before the end of the half.
LHS made four straight 3-pointers in the second quarter, helping them push out an 18-10 advantage to 30-10. Clarence King (14 points) found space and drilled the first. Quartlebaum, who scored 15 points in the first half, knocked down the second after Savonni Shazor gained possession with an emphatic swat and midair rebound guarding Blue Valley North's Nick Orr. Jake Rajewski knocked in the third after an offensive rebound and Quartlebaum hit the fourth to push out the lead to 20.
"Life's good when you're hitting shots," said Lewis.
"It was good to see it go in the hoop," Quartlebaum added.
For one side, yes.
While the Lions continued to build on their lead and hold off the Mustangs, the higher-seeded host team started to fall apart.
Blue Valley North committed three technical fouls in the game, turning into four LHS points. All three came after a Mustangs score.
"We just (try) to stay away from that," King said. "(We) let them do what they do and we do what we do. When we do what we do, we score it and we win."
Perhaps most impressively, they did it despite less than perfect on-court conditions.
With Anthony Selden in foul trouble in the first half, the Lions relied on Eric Galbreath to come in and play serious minutes. Lewis was impressed with his poise — "How about Eric Galbreath, right?" he asked with a smile — and the same went for Selden, who made two of the biggest plays in the fourth quarter to quell a Blue Valley North rally.
With the lead cut down to 13 late, Dylan Freberg tried to bully Selden in the post, but the senior came away with a swat. Then Miles Emery tried to take it inside on him. Selden forced him into a miss and another on an attempted tip-in. He'd have one more bucket in him before it was all said and done.
"I knew he was going to do something crazy. That's why I passed it to him," King said. "And he made it. He better make it."
With the game essentially out of reach, King pushed ahead the ball to Selden, who drove baseline and threw down an athletic one-handed windmill dunk. King graded the play a nine out of 10, joking that Selden didn't hang in the air long enough for a perfect score.
Lewis also was unimpressed, as a former high-flyer himself — sort of.
"Yeah, on my mini-hoop in my front room," Lewis wryly inserted. "What a way to finish the game."
Selden, on the other hand, wouldn't have changed a thing. Whether it was the 22-point performance by Quartlebaum, the key nine points added by freshman Zeke Mayo on 3-for-3 shooting or Selden's windmill dunk on Saturday, everything seemed to come together at the right time for the Lions.
"I was planning on doing it earlier in the season, but that was the perfect time," Selden said. "Got to put the exclamation point on it."
Anthony Selden 2-4 0-0 4, Brett Chapple 2-3 1-1 5, Trey Quartlebaum 5-10 9-12 22, Jake Rajewski 2-2 0-0 6, Savonni Shazor 1-3 1-4 4, Clarence King 4-9 5-8 14, Eric Galbreath 0-0 0-0 0, Van Dave Jacob 2-4 3-4 7, Zeke Mayo 3-3 1-2 9, Steven Strickland 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 21-38 20-31 71.
Blue Valley North (52)
Gus Freeman 0-0 0-0 0, Shawn Hendershot 4-7 2-2 10, Miles Emery 3-6 3-8 9, Luke Adams 3-8 0-0 8, Dylan Freberg 1-2 0-0 2, Eric Baston 1-4 1-2 3, Nick Orr 3-4 1-1 7, Ben Hirschi 1-4 4-4 6, Brennan Masterson 2-5 0-0 5, Ethan Vlasic 1-1 0-2 2, Wyatt Turner 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 19-41 11-19 52.
Lawrence 17 13 15 26—71
BV North 6 5 20 21—52
3-point goals: Lawrence 9-18 (Quartlebaum 3, Mayo, Rajewski 2, Shazor, King 1); BV North 3-11 (Adams 2, Masterson 1). Fouled out: Chapple. Turnovers: Lawrence 11, BV 16.