Lions rely on defense to subdue Firebirds
All it takes is a few plays for Lawrence High’s boys basketball players to find a rhythm on offense. On Friday in the City Showdown, the Lions used their defense to create some momentum.
With the help of a few Free State miscues, the Lions guarded tightly and didn’t let up until they could coast to a 57-50 victory over their rivals at LHS on their Senior Night.
After trailing by five points at the end of the first quarter, the Lions dominated in the second quarter, outscoring the Firebirds, 19-2. Senior guard Anthony Bonner scored eight points, including a pair of deep threes, and junior point guard Justin Roberts added seven points and three assists in the period.
LHS junior forward Fred Brou ended the first half with a buzzer-beating layup after senior guard Ben Rajewski grabbed an offensive rebound on a missed three-pointer.
Meanwhile, Free State missed four of its five shots in the second quarter and turned the ball over five times. Junior forward Hunter Gudde scored the team’s only points on a layup before the Firebirds went scoreless for the final six minutes of the first half.
“We just made sure we guarded our yard,” Roberts said. “We just stayed in front of our man and didn’t let them get any easy buckets to the rim. … It started to fall for us, and we just went off momentum. We were more aggressive, and it all worked out for us.”
The second-ranked Lions (19-1) were happy with their shot selection in the first quarter despite their problems scoring. They had no such problem putting the ball in the hoop when they shot 64 percent (7-for-11) in the final eight minutes of the first half.
“We had some good looks,” LHS coach Mike Lewis said. “In the first quarter, that’s a classic Lawrence High-Free State game where everybody is just running around kind of crazy trying to hit shots and sustain the momentum of the game. It can be real wild for a young kid. You survive the first quarter, then second quarter you try to settle down and play good basketball.”
The Firebirds (11-9) opened the third quarter with an 8-1 run led by Gudde, who scored six points and blocked a shot, cutting their deficit to five points. But they went scoreless for the next five minutes, missing four shots and running into more problems with turnovers. They would never pull any closer.
“They guarded hard tonight,” FSHS coach Chuck Law said of Lawrence’s defense. “They got athletes. They can guard. (John) Barbee was doing a great job on Weston (Hack). They took away some of the stuff we were trying to do just by getting up in us a little more than they did the first time. I was just a little disappointed in our lack of discipline.”
Hack, who led the Firebirds with 20 points and completed a double-double with 10 rebounds, scored nine points in the fourth quarter. But Roberts and Bonner combined for 14 points in the final period, and senior Logan Applegate, senior Kyle Hoffman, senior Tae Shorter and sophomore Jackson Mallory added points to keep their lead at a safe distance.
The Lions went undefeated in Sunflower League play this season and won their first league title since the 2001-02 season.
“That feels great,” said Bonner, who scored a game-high 21 points. “It hasn’t happened in quite some time. We’re really happy to get it for coach and community, show people what we’re about. Hopefully that will be momentum, and we can keep it rolling and get that state title.”
The Lions earned the top seed in their sub-state bracket and will face Shawnee Mission Northwest at 7 p.m. Wednesday at LHS. The Firebirds are the sixth seed and will travel to third-seeded Shawnee Mission North at 7 p.m. Wednesday.
FREE STATE (50)
Andrew Keating 1-4 0-0 2, Weston Hack 7-17 5-7 20, Justin Narcomey 1-3 0-0 3, Hunter Gudde 5-9 7-8 17, Jack Raney 0-1 0-0 0, Jay Dineen 0-1 2-2 2, Jacob Pavlyak 0-1 0-0 0, Chrision Wilburn 0-0 0-0 0, Sloan Thomsen 2-3 0-0 6. Totals 16-39 14-17 50.
Justin Roberts 3-8 9-10 16, Price Morgan 3-4 0-0 6, Ben Rajewski 0-3 0-0 0, Anthony Bonner 6-11 6-8 21, John Barbee 0-3 1-4 1, Logan Applegate 1-3 0-0 2, Anthony Harvey 0-1 0-0 0, Tae Shorter 0-1 1-2 1, Fred Brou 2-2 0-0 4, Kyle Hoffman 0-1 3-4 3, Jackson Mallory 0-0 3-4 3. Totals 15-37 23-32 57.
Free State 13 2 11 24 — 50
Lawrence 8 19 7 23 — 57
Three-point goals: Free State 4-14 (Thomsen 2, Hack, Narcomey); Lawrence 4-13 (Bonner 3, Roberts). Fouled out: Keating, Dineen. Turnovers: Free State 13, Lawrence 8.