LHS grabs share of Sunflower League title with 77-68 win over Shawnee Mission West

Lawrence High senior forward Bryce Johnson (14) and SM West senior forward Emillio Elliott, Jr. (35) get set for the opening tip. LHS defeated SM West 77-68 on Friday, Feb. 28.

Midway through the third quarter, LHS senior forward Bryce Johnson rifled a pass to the right corner to Mayo. With a defender rushing toward him, Mayo sidestepped to his left and knocked down another 3-pointer.

With Mayo back on the floor, Lawrence High secured both a 77-68 win over Shawnee Mission West and a share of the Sunflower League title Friday in the Lions’ final regular-season game.

“I’m really proud of our guys,” LHS coach Mike Lewis said. “We’ve had a season where we were trying to figure out our brand early and try to figure out who we are. I just like the way our guys have dug in and played the last few weeks.”

Mayo was back in the starting lineup after missing the Lions’ 45-42 loss to SM South on Tuesday. He injured his ankle two games ago against Free State, but looked like he didn’t miss a step with a team-high 17 points against the Vikings.

“I thought tonight he probably played a little bit too much,” Lewis said. “But he seemed to handle it well.”

There was also talk throughout the week of bouncing back from Tuesday’s loss and how the Lions had to “get a lot better” before Friday.

“We just weren’t very good Tuesday,” Lewis said. “(We thought) ‘We’ve got to get better and finish the week strong — make it a feel-good Friday.’ (We had to) understand what we did wrong Tuesday and how bad we were in certain situations and get better and play better tonight.”

That difference pushed the Lions (16-4, 10-2 Sunflower League) to the Sunflower League title, a race that may have been a little closer than expected after LHS dropped Tuesday’s game in Mayo’s absence. The Lions share the title with Olathe West and crosstown rival Free State.

“You know, we regret letting Tuesday get away from us,” Lewis said. “We’d like to have the title outright. But in our league, it’s one of those (things) where you’ve got to be on your A-game each night and we’re very much proud of being a part of that league title.”

Friday’s game wasn’t any easier. After leading by as many as 17 in the third quarter, the Lions played a less than perfect game.

The Vikings (5-15, 2-10 Sunflower League) — led by Emillio Elliott Jr. with 16 points — continued to hang around late in the fourth quarter, cutting the lead to within 10 or fewer multiple times. SM West even cut the lead to 70-61 after a 3-pointer followed by a five-second call on LHS.

“I felt like we gambled a little too much (defensively),” Lewis said. “We just let them be the aggressor on a few too many plays.”

On the other side, LHS lost the turnover battle, 17-10, which didn’t help its cause.

However, as has been the case often this season, the Lions made enough in-game adjustments to come out on top.

Defensively, senior guard Ruben Littlehead was all over the court forcing turnovers. The Lions also switched to a zone defense multiple times to stall the Vikings’ second-half runs.

Lewis said the switch to zone was “nothing out of the ordinary” and came from a discussion on the bench with his assistant coaches.

“It was something to see if we could change it up a bit and maybe change the momentum a little bit,” Lewis said.

As for the offense, it was sloppy at times, but the Lions still got out in transition, and Mayo and senior guard Peyton Mallory combined for seven 3-pointers on the night. Senior forward Mayson Quartlebaum and Johnson also combined for 25 points down low.

Even with the win, Lewis said the Lions can still make strides in improving their defense and communication. But, through this season-long journey of finding out “who we are,” Lewis said he’s found some clarity at the end of the regular season.

“We’re also pretty good basketball players,” Lewis said. “On any given night, we get some pretty nice compliments about how we share the ball and the way we’ve defended. I feel like we’ve got some good balance going with the guys.”

LHS will next play in the semifinals of substate on Wednesday.

Lawrence High (77)

Zeke Mayo 5-9 4-4 17, Peyton Mallory 5-9 1-2 15, Mayson Quartlebaum 4-7 5-5 13, Bryce Johnson 6-8 0-3 12, Valdez White 5-7 0-3 11, Ruben Littlehead 3-6 3-4 9, Willie Dotson 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 28-47 13-21 77.

Shawnee Mission West (68)

Emillio Elliott Jr. 6-9 4-4 16, Wesley Clark 4-13 5-5 14, CJ Callaghan 3-5 4-4 11, Mitchell Loe 3-9 3-4 9, Dante Jackson 3-5 0-0 8, Darion Wesson 2-5 1-2 6, Matthew Olson 2-3 0-0 4, Sam Derning 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 23-50 17-19 68.

Lawrence High 24 15 17 21 — 77

Shawnee Mission West 13 19 11 25 — 68

3-point goals: LHS 8-19 (Mayo, Mallory, White); SM West 5-18 (Jackson, Clark, Wesson, Callaghan). Turnovers: LHS 17, SM West 10.

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