LHS boys anticipating tougher test in rematch with Wichita Southeast

photo by: Carter Gaskins

Lawrence High senior Clarence King (3) celebrates with sophomore Zeke Mayo after a win over Garden City at the KSHSAA Sub-State tournament at Lawrence High School on March 1, 2019.

Lawrence High coach Mike Lewis doesn’t want to emphasize how easy the first meeting was.

In the opening round of the 6A state tournament, LHS will take on Wichita Southeast. The Lions (19-3) thrashed the Golden Buffaloes (19-3) by a 72-46 margin during the semifinals of the Topeka Invitational Tournament on Jan. 18.

While the win should give the Lions plenty of confidence, Lewis understands that the rematch should be more difficult.

“We played pretty well, and they didn’t. But that was in January,” Lewis said. “We have improved, they have improved. The state tournament is a completely different environment. Our guys are going to have to let that one go and refocus.”

Lewis can point to the first half of the first meeting as an example of what the opening round could be. LHS was tied with Wichita Southeast, 24-24, at the intermission before breaking the game open with a 27-point effort in the third quarter.

The Lions were eventually able to pull their starters in the fourth quarter with the game out of reach. At the time, it was a battle between the No. 2 team and No. 3 team in Class 6A. For Lawrence, it served as a statement that it was one of the better teams in the state.

“We have to forget about how last game went, in terms of the result,” senior Trey Quartlebaum said. “We are playing for something now, so I feel like it will be a tighter game. They are aggressive on defense and they have good playmakers on their team.”

The key for the Lions now is to not overlook anyone, which shouldn’t be a problem given their experience.

Quartlebaum is a part of a strong senior class, along with Clarence King, Brett Chapple and Eric Galbreath, that have started for much of the season.

Trips to the state tournament have become expected for this program, as LHS has made five straight appearances. It is the second-longest streak of state berths in program history, trailing only the 1916-22 run by the Lions.

This senior class has been a part of a third-place finish in 2016 and was on the squad that finished as a runner-up in 2017. But that’s exactly why this team is not satisfied with just another trip to Wichita. The Lions have much bigger aspirations for this week.

“It has been five years in a row of making it, but it has been a while since we have won it,” Quartlebaum said. “That’s our goal.”

LHS has ended its season the last two years with losses to Blue Valley Northwest, the two-time defending 6A champs. Lawrence won’t have to worry about a third consecutive clash unless both teams make it the championship game.

If Lawrence does take care of business in the opening round, though, it would take on the winner of Free State/Washburn Rural in the semifinals and guarantee that the team is going to get three games this week.

“We are never comfortable just showing up,” Lewis said. “From the beginning, we have talked about this being a five-game tournament. So now, we have three left.”

Tipoff is slated for 8:15 p.m. Wednesday at Wichita State University.

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