Lawrence boys advance to state tourney with 63-55 win over Wichita Southeast

photo by: Carter Gaskins

The Lawrence High boys basketball team poses with the sub-state championship plaque Saturday night at LHS on March 7, 2020.

About 15 minutes after the final buzzer, Lawrence High head coach Mike Lewis made his way toward the locker room. He was then greeted with his first postgame shower of the season, and it was well deserved.

For the second game in a row, the Lions turning to their zone defense in the second half proved to be the difference. The new scheme slowed down Wichita Southeast junior Jackie Johnson, allowing Lawrence to secure a 63-55 win in the sub-state championship game Saturday night at LHS.

The Lions (18-4) are headed to the Class 6A state tournament for the sixth year in a row, a stretch that now matches the 1916-22 run for most consecutive state berths in program history.

Hence, why the players dumped water on Lewis during the postgame celebration.

“I needed to cool off a bit,” Lewis joked before acknowledging how special his team’s latest win was. “It is sweet. We have a great group of seniors. Top to bottom, we have a great group of guys. I’m just really proud of them. They stepped up and finished it.”

Lawrence senior Peyton Mallory admitted that the idea to pour water on Lewis came from the assistant coaches. Junior Zeke Mayo, who led the team with 18 points, was the first to launch his cup of water at Lewis. The rest of the Lions followed suit, and Lewis merely welcomed the shower with open arms.

It is a scene that will be a lasting memory for Mallory, who hoisted up another sub-state championship plaque in his final home game along with fellow seniors Willie Dotson, Valdez White, Ethan Bentzinger, Bryce Johnson, Mayson Quartlebaum and Ruben Littlehead.

“It is awesome just to know our senior year we got it done,” Mallory said. “We got a win in our last time in ‘The Jungle.'”

But the locker room scene looked a lot different an hour earlier than all of that.

Wichita Southeast (15-7), which eliminated Lawrence in the opening round of the Class 6A state tournament a year ago, had a 34-26 advantage over LHS at the intermission. Jackie Johnson scored 25 points in the first two quarters alone after pouring in 32 against the Lions in the state tourney last year.

On Saturday, Jackie Johnson connected on seven 3-pointers in the first half. Most of those triples were actually heavily guarded by Lawrence. Littlehead began the game with the assignment of defending Johnson. Both Dotson and Mallory took their turn as well.

So the Lions switched things up the second half, using a zone defense for just the second time all year after it worked in the second half of the sub-state semifinal against Wichita South. This time, though, LHS shaded two guys toward wherever Jackie Johnson was on the perimeter.

Forward Bryce Johnson, and his 6-foot-5 frame, actually played at the top of the zone. His length bothered Jackie Johnson, who missed all three of his attempts from long range in the third quarter.

However, Bryce Johnson just needed to see one miss to know his team was going to win.

“Right after he missed the first one and hit it off the front of the rim, ‘I was like, yeah, this is working,'” Johnson said. “He was all their points, so just stopping him was going to help us win.”

Jackie Johnson didn’t score until there was 1:04 remaining in the contest, though the game was already decided by then. Wichita Southeast went 3 of 14 from beyond the arc over the final two quarters compared to its 8-for-20 effort in the first half.

It allowed the Lions to grab the momentum with a 13-0 run in the third quarter, as they then played from in front for the rest of the night. Bryce Johnson started the stretch off with a two-handed slam at the 6:14 mark. Quartlebaum capped things off with a triple on an assist by Johnson a few minutes later.

Every player contributed to Lawerence’s second-half rally. Mayo attacked the rim with a purpose to help get the offense going in the third quarter. Eleven of Quartlebaum’s 13 points came in the second half, which included a ferocious one-handed flush midway through the final period.

Mallory, Johnson and Littlehead hit a combined six attempts from the charity stripe in the final minute to help Lawrence hang on. The game ended with Quartlebaum hugging the ball near midcourt as the final seconds ticked off the clock.

Quartlebaum then hoisted the sub-state championship plaque in the air, while the entire LHS team and student section chanted about going to the state tournament on the court.

“This was kind of like a revenge game,” Dotson said. “That loss (last year) really hurt us. We just wanted to get back.”

The Class 6A state tournament will begin on Thursday at Wichita State University.

Wichita Southeast (55)

Jackie Johnson 10-20 2-2 30, Larry Cherry 2-3 0-0 6, Voshun Webb 2-6 0-0 4, Rone Smith 3-12 0-3 7, Micah Jacques 1-8 0-0 2, Kobe Smith 0-2 0-0 0, Darius Pottard 1-1 0-0 2, Jevon Hill 2-3 0-0 4, Keaton Williams 0-0 0-1 0. Totals: 21-55 2-6 55.

Lawrence High (63)

Zeke Mayo 5-18 7-8 18, Peyton Mallory 3-4 2-2 9, Bryce Johnson 3-8 3-5 9, Mayson Quartlebaum 4-10 3-7 13, Ruben Littlehead 3-5 2-4 8, Valdez White 2-5 1-2 6, Willie Dotson 0-1 0-0 0, Ethan Bentzinger 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 20-51 18-28 63.

Wichita Southeast 21 13 7 14 — 55

Lawrence High 14 12 21 16 — 63

3-point goals: WSE 11-34 (Johnson 8, Cherry 2, Smith); LHS 5-15 (Mayo, Mallory, Quartlebaum 2, White). Turnovers: WSE 10, LHS 10. Fouled out: None.

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