LHS boys advance to championship game with 63-62 win over Blue Valley
Stilwell — It would have been easy to let the game get away down the stretch.
Blue Valley led by six with 3:39 remaining during the semifinals of its home tournament Thursday night at BVHS. Instead, Lawrence High’s boys basketball team remained composed and made enough plays down the stretch to secure a 63-62 win.
The Lions (2-1, No. 7 in Class 6A) advanced to the championship game of the Blue Valley Shootout for the third year in a row, which included a tournament title in last year’s event.
“It was just a fun high school game,” LHS head coach Mike Lewis said. “You can’t simulate that type of stuff in practice. It is just a huge confidence booster.”
But many of the players responsible for the strong finish were not significant contributors this time last year. So, in a way, Thursday’s narrow victory served as a formal introduction for many players getting their first real shot to make a varsity impact.
Senior Mayson Quartlebaum was a key reserve last year, but is embracing a bigger role in his final season. The Kennesaw State signee got the rally started with a bucket at the 3:01 mark, pulling the Lions with 4 points.
And that’s when senior Peyton Mallory took his turn on the big stage. Mallory hit a trio of 3-pointers on Lawrence’s next three baskets, including an and-one opportunity that evened the score at 58-58.
Mallory then hit a go-ahead triple with 24.1 seconds left, giving LHS a 61-60 advantage. It served as Lawrence’s first lead since the start of the fourth quarter. The performance was important for Mallory, who struggled to hit shots during the opening round two nights earlier.
“It was a huge confidence boost for me,” Mallory said. “I hopefully had my worst game of the season last game, so this was big for me to hit some shots.”
The Tigers then reclaimed the lead on a basket by junior Mac Demo on the other end.
Lawrence set up a play to get an open look, but the shot misfired. LHS senior Bryce Johnson notched the putback with 4.6 seconds remaining, which ended up being the game-winning basket to conclude a back-and-forth battle.
“I was just relieved, because I didn’t want to play for third place,” Johnson said. “I was trying to go to the championship.”
The late-game heroics was a huge for Johnson, who missed the season opener with a calf injury. He then was limited in the team’s win over Lee’s Summit in the opening round of the Blue Valley Shootout.
But the thrilling finish could be beneficial for the Lions as a team, especially since many of these players are getting their first meaningful varsity action.
Lawrence jumped out to a 17-14 advantage in the first quarter behind multiple contributors. Ethan Bentzinger and Mallory each hit a triple. Ruben LittleHead netted a pair of buckets and Johnson hit a basket in transition as well.
But Blue Valley took a 26-23 lead into the intermission after getting 10 points from the free throw line. LHS, meanwhile, was held to just three field goals during a competitive second period.
Quartlebaum and junior Zeke Mayo then combined for 18 of the team’s 21 points in the third period to help LHS reclaim a 44-43 advantage entering the final frame. Blue Valley senior Hayden Young hit a trio of 3-pointers in the fourth quarter to help the hosts lead by as many as 6 points in the final four minutes.
“Everybody to a certain extent is new,” Lewis said. “For us to get it done, and to have that composure, it was a good momentum booster for us. It was a great way to build confidence for sure.”
But the Lions are not satisfied, as they want to defend their title in this event.
Lawrence will face Sunflower League foe Olathe South in the championship game. The Falcons won their semifinal contest against Grandview in overtime. Tipoff for the title game of the Blue Valley Shootout is slated for 8 p.m. Friday at Blue Valley High School.
“We always come out strong in the Blue Valley tournament,” Mallory said. “It is a good experience for us for later in the season.”
Ethan Bentzinger 3, Zeke Mayo 19, Ruben LittleHead 6, Peyton Mallory 12, Bryce Johnson 9, Valdez White 2, Gannon Hill 0, JaCorey Thompson 2, Mayson Quartlebaum.
Blue Valley (62)
Mac Demo 11, Aidan Shaw 18, Miles Blandi 5, Hayden Young 19, Dylan Wipperman 2, Parker Hill 5, Jacob Owen 2
Lawrence 17 6 21 19 — 63
Blue Valley 14 12 17 19 — 62
Three-point goals: Lawrence 5 (Bentzinger, Mallory 4); Blue Valley 6 (Young 3, Blandi, Shaw, Hill). Turnovers: LHS 11, Blue Valley 10. Fouled out: Bentzinger, LHS.