LHS boys race past Olathe West, 68-44, for fifth consecutive win

photo by: Chance Parker

Lawrence junior guard Avion Nelson drives to the basket against Blue Valley Northwest. Lawrence High lost 72-50 at Blue Valley Northwest Tuesday night on Jan. 26, 2021.

If it weren’t for the frigid temperatures outside, or mostly the fact basketball was being played, one might have actually mistaken Lawrence High’s 68-44 rout of Olathe West for a track meet.

The Lions (No. 3 in Class 6A) ran — and ran some more — all the way past the Owls Thursday night at LHS for their fifth win in a row. Lawrence attacked Olathe West in transition all night, which led to a lot of easy buckets and a lopsided score for most of the Sunflower League matchup.

And that was definitely by design for a Lawrence squad that improved to 13-1 on the year.

“When given the opportunity, we definitely wanted to push,” LHS head coach Mike Lewis said. “We left our pregame (meeting) just wanting to play also. Just play with some instinct, take what they give us and just play.”

The Owls (8-7) gave the Lions a lot of transition opportunities, especially early on. Olathe West committed 12 turnovers, with half of those taking place in the first quarter alone. A lot of those turnovers were a result of a concerted effort on the defensive end by LHS.

Junior guard Truman Juelsgaard forced a five-second violation at the 6:11 mark in the first quarter. Junior Jack Ryan did the same later in the first quarter by denying an inbound pass attempt from Olathe West. Juelsgaard and junior Pearse Long also forced a jump ball with active hands in the lane at one point.

LHS recorded 11 steals as a team in the win over Olathe West. Junior Avion Nelson led the way with three of those steals, while Juelsgaard and senior Zeke Mayo finished with two apiece.

Even when Olathe West didn’t turn the ball over, Lawrence was still quick to get to the other end off a miss. The Owls went 16-of-44 from the floor for the game, including a 7-for-20 clip in the first half.

“Being able to break out and score helps a bunch,” Lewis said. “That just creates the momentum. You just play a little bit harder on defense and you react a little bit quicker. Our guys just played hard, which was fun to watch.”

Lawrence closed out the first quarter on a 15-2 run over the final four minutes of action to grab a 27-8 lead after the first quarter.

During that stretch, the Lions showed why they are at their best when they are attacking in transition. At one point, Mayo recorded a steal and found Juelsgaard for a layup on the fastbreak. Juelsgaard returned the favor a minute later, hitting Mayo in stride for the transition bucket.

LHS just has so many athletic playmakers on its team, in which many of the athletes even play multiple sports for the school.

“We’ve got the players to get out and have some freedom to play,” Lewis said. “I also think once we get in half-court, we are very much capable also.”

“It’s fun to watch as a coach,” Lewis added of the fast-paced style of play.

It was a formula that led to a balanced attack by the Lions on Thursday. Mayo paced the Lions with 18 points on just eight shot attempts. Nelson, who has shown he is as athletic as anyone with his rim-rattling dunking ability, added 15 points off the bench.

Junior forward Grant Cleavinger joined them in double figures by chipping in 13 points. Cleavinger and Nelson both also led Lawrence with five rebounds apiece.

Even when the reserves got in, the Lions still never seemed to slow down. On the final play of the third quarter, Corban Oberzan made a stellar steal near midcourt before looking upcourt to find Mayo near the rim.

Late in the game, sophomore guard Macade Lewis tallied a steal and immediately fired a pass to junior guard Alex Watts on the other end. Watts finished off the sequence with a layup, a play that was nearly identical to just about any other basket made by the Lions that night.

In fact, the only time the Lions were ever completely stopped was when there was a bat flying around the gym in the third quarter, which paused game action for a moment. Kaitlin Schulman, who is the spirit squad director for LHS, saved the day by launching a towel at the bat to bring it down to the floor.

Because of that towel toss, the Lions were ultimately able to keep their win streak alive.

“We are just focusing on each week and what we have to accomplish that week,” Lewis said. “It helps our guys and helps our coaching staff to take one week at a time.”

LHS will host Olathe North at 7 p.m. Tuesday to start of next week’s slate of games.

Olathe West (44)

Reggie Dennis 1-1 0-0 3, Aidan Sturdivan 0-3 0-3 0, Tommy Faseru 3-7 0-0 7, Terique Suwareh 2-4 1-5 5, Carter Lichtsinn 3-11 1-4 7, Brisyn Robinson 2-4 0-2 4, Jayson Luse 2-4 0-0 4, Mike Anderson 1-2 0-0 3, Mikai Blakeney 1-3 5-5 7, Tanner Zimmerman 0-1 1-2 1, Thatcher Ahlers 0-2 0-0 0, Cooper Carley 0-1 0-0 0, Harrison Kisling 1-1 0-0 3. Totals: 16-44 FG 8-21 FT 44 points.

Lawrence (68)

Zeke Mayo 6-8 4-5 18, Truman Juelsgaard 2-6 2-2 6, Jackson Dooley 0-1 0-0 0, Grant Cleavinger 6-10 1-2 13, Pearse Long 1-5 0-0 2, 2, Jack Ryan 2-3 0-0 5, Avion Nelson 7-11 0-0 15, Ntense Obono 0-0 0-0 0, Corban Oberzan 2-2 0-0 4, Alex Watts 1-1 0-0 2, Macade Lewis 0-1 0-0 0, Jaylon Case 1-1 0-0 3. Totals: 28-49 FG 7-9 FT 68 points.

Olathe W 8 10 17 9 — 44

Lawrence 27 14 16 11 — 68

3-point goals: OW 4-17 (Dennis, Faseru, Anderson, Kisling); LHS 5-14 (Mayo 2, Ryan, Nelson, Case). Turnovers: OW 12; LHS 6. Fouled out: Dooley, LHS.

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