Lawrence High boys basketball falls to Liberty in season opener
Liberty, Mo. — Despite a second-half resurgence by Lawrence High, Liberty’s offense was too much in the Blue Jays’ 77-64 victory over the Lions in the 810 Varsity Tipoff Classic Saturday night.
“I really thought our guys showed a lot of heart and fight,” LHS coach Mike Lewis said. “(We) played against a team tonight that shot it really well and was physical, and they were a load. It’s a great early-season game for us to learn from and get better.”
A potent 3-point shooting performance and the one-two punch of junior guard Javion Byers (22 points) and senior forward Grant Stubbs (29 points) gave Liberty just enough of an edge. The Blue Jays shot 13-of-20 from 3-point range.
“They cut really hard and they screen very well,” Lewis said. “They were very much in-sync to get those shots. A few of those shots we contested very well (but) they just hit shots.”
And it didn’t take long, as Byers got into a rhythm early, shooting 4-of-4 from the field in the first quarter. Liberty jumped out to a 20-7 lead after a made 3-pointer from Stubbs, forcing an LHS timeout.
For LHS, that first quarter was a matter of trying to find what worked. The result was feeding senior forward Mayson Quartlebaum inside, as the senior scored 8 of the Lions’ 15 points in the first quarter.
The Blue Jays stretched the lead to 26-15 at the end of the first quarter, with Stubbs and Byers leading the way offensively. The Lions also committed five turnovers in the first quarter.
Liberty managed to maintain that momentum into the second quarter, building the lead to 37-19. Byers scored a team-high 19 points in the first half, with Stubbs scoring 9.
The Lions managed to go on a quick 6-0 run to cut into the lead, but the Blue Jays did enough to keep the lead in double digits. Liberty went into halftime up 42-29.
Quartlebaum led the way for LHS with 10 points in the first half, with senior guard Peyton Mallory right behind with 7 points.
However, the Lions — who were narrowly outscored 16-14 in the second quarter — came out with newfound energy out of the break.
With his team down 13 at halftime, although it felt like “20 or 30 points,” Lewis told his team to keep their heads up.
“So you look at the math and go, ‘We kind of survived, to a certain extent,'” Lewis said. “And I just reminded our guys that we were here today to compete and fight and we weren’t going anywhere.”
LHS even cut the lead to 49-41, thanks to a circus shot from junior guard Zeke Mayo. Mayo — who shot 0-of-4 from the field in the first half — came alive in the third quarter. He scored 12 points and rejuvenated the Lions’ offensively. Mayo finished with a team-high 22 points.
“In the first half we just couldn’t quite get the looks that we wanted to get for (Mayo),” Lewis said. “So he needed a good third quarter just to give us some momentum. We rely a lot on Zeke and I was also proud of his effort and energy in that second half.”
On the other side, Byers cooled off, scoring just 2 points off a floater in the lane. However, Stubbs took over the reigns of the offense, scoring 10 points in the third quarter to keep the lead at 55-45 heading into the fourth quarter.
But when Liberty got sloppy with possessions, LHS took advantage. Liberty committed three turnovers in the fourth quarter.
And the Lions turned defense into offense with layups from Mayo and senior guard Valdez White. All of a sudden, LHS had cut the Liberty lead to 62-56.
Sending a shooter like Stubbs to the free-throw line, though, doesn’t help a comeback effort. Stubbs was 4-of-4 from the free throw line in the fourth quarter.
Thanks to Liberty continuing to feed the ball inside and LHS cooling off on offense, Liberty stretched the lead back out to 72-58 with just under two minutes to play.
And despite the defensive pressure from the Lions, the Blue Jays made their free throws down the stretch to secure the victory.
While the end result didn’t go the Lions’ way, Lewis is confident this early-season game on the road against a quality opponent will pay dividends in the long run.
“It’s just really, really good film where you can watch and learn what it takes to close out a little bit better, talk a little bit more, get a little bit tougher through screens,” Lewis said. “So I think Tuesday we can come out and really make some good changes.”
LHS will next face Lee’s Summit in the first round of the Blue Valley Shootout on Tuesday.
Lawrence High (64)
Zeke Mayo 7-14 6-6 22, Mayson Quartlebaum 6-11 3-4 17, Valdez White 4-6 0-0 8, Peyton Mallory 2-3 3-3 7, JaCorey Thompson 1-2 5-7 7, Ethan Bentzinger 1-2 0-0 3, Ruben Littlehead 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 21-39 17-20 64.
Grant Stubbs 11-15 4-5 29, Javion Byers 8-10 1-2 22, Luke Stubbs 2-3 3-4 8, Jermain Booker 2-4 1-1 6, Bennett Stirtz 1-2 2-2 5, Kellen Goodwin 1-3 1-2 4, Javin Shaw 1-3 0-0 3. Totals 26-40 12-16 77.
Lawrence 15 14 16 19 – 64
Liberty 26 16 13 22 — 77
3-point field goals: Lawrence High 5-20 (Mayo, Bentzinger, Quartlebaum); Liberty 13-20 (Byers, Grant Stubbs, Luke Stubbs, Booker, Goodwin, Stirtz, Shaw). Turnovers: Lawrence High 9, Liberty 8.