Lawrence drains 11 triples to secure 56-40 win over Free State boys in City Showdown
photo by: Chance Parker
Head coach Mike Lewis emerged from the visiting locker room soaked from head-to-toe after the Lawrence High boys basketball team splashed the coaching staff with bottles of water following a 56-40 win over Free State Friday night.
A raucous celebration occurred behind closed doors in the locker room, with everybody dancing while recording the moment on their cell phones. It was a scene that took place moments after Lawrence secured its third consecutive win in the City Showdown, earning its seventh victory in the last eight meetings in this crosstown rivalry.
“We had to get coach one time with water,” Lawrence senior Zeke Mayo said. “I know this is big for him too. I think we’ve won seven of the last eight. I know he’s excited and proud of us for that.”
But before the Lions splashed water all over their coach, they drained 3-pointer after 3-pointer in their 16-point win against the Firebirds.
In Free State’s (17-3, No. 4 in Class 6A) home gymnasium, Lawrence (16-1, No. 3 in Class 6A) connected on 11 of its 22 attempts from beyond the arc, which matched its season high for 3-pointers in a game. LHS went 11-for-28 from deep against Mill Valley on Jan. 15 and has not hit more than seven triples in any other contest this year.
The Lions knocked down eight long balls in the first half alone, leading to a 32-15 advantage at the intermission.
“I thought we worked the ball OK and looked for those rhythm shots,” Lewis said. “Our guys know if it’s in rhythm — and there’s some confidence there — then shoot the ball.
“One of those nights where we are hitting good looks and then that leads to momentum,” Lewis added. “You just play better.”
LHS junior Pearse Long was responsible for five of those 3-pointers, including three in the fourth quarter to help the visitors effectively ice the game. Long finished with a team-high 17 points on 6-of-10 shooting from the floor.
Everybody got involved in the Lions’ shooting clinic, however. Mayo, who ended up with 12 points, buried a long 3-pointer from the left wing against a spot zone defensive possession by FSHS.
Senior Jackson Dooley splashed in two 3-pointers, including one from the left corner to end the second quarter. Junior guard Truman Juelsgaard hit two 3-pointers as well. Junior Avion Nelson, who got the start in place of Grant Cleavinger, also connected on one shot from distance.
LHS fired 22 of its 37 field goal attempts from beyond the arc, mostly because that’s what was made available.
Free State attempted to provide help defense as much as possible on Mayo, who was averaging over 22 points per game entering Friday. It led to more open looks for the Lions, who averaged just over four 3-pointers per game ahead of the rivalry contest.
“They made some big shots,” FSHS head coach Sam Stroh said after his team’s nine-game win streak was snapped Friday. “We wanted to help off on Zeke, but you have to give them credit: They hit some big shots.
“They’ve played well against us over the years, and now we got 10 days to prepare for substate in a win-or-go home,” Stroh added. “It’s a good lesson for our kids, but we’ll lick our wounds and get ready to go on Monday.”
Perhaps the biggest positive for the Firebirds is that they found a way to claw their way back in the third quarter. After trailing 32-15 at halftime, Free State pulled within 4 points with 2:12 left to play in the third quarter following a two-handed dunk by sophomore Jailen Thompson.
Free State didn’t give up a basket to LHS in the third quarter until the 1:51 mark, when Ntense Obono netted an easy layup because of a defensive breakdown. FSHS utilized a full-court pressure defense that ended up creating a number of turnovers during that stretch.
At one point, junior guard Mozae Downing dived for a loose ball near midcourt and beat every LHS player to the floor to snatch possession on an incredible hustle play.
On the offensive end, Downing became more assertive as well. He drove hard to the rim often, and had a feel for when to pull up for a jumper. Downing delivered 11 of his team-high 17 points in the third quarter.
Junior guard Dash Cleveland was just as active in the passing lanes and aggressively attacked the rim on the offensive end. He finished with 10 points to join Downing in double figures.
Lawrence remained composed, however, and created some breathing room at the start of the fourth quarter when Long connected on a 3-pointer. He then hit two more for good measure in the final period, and LHS was able to dribble out the clock for the final 90 seconds of play.
The celebration started on the court for the Lions, who have now won eight consecutive games entering the regular-season finale against Shawnee Mission South on Tuesday. And the win clearly meant a lot more to LHS than just another game in the streak:
It was a chance to send a message.
“The rankings might show that they are one behind us,” Mayo said. “But, honestly, we came out and proved that we are a lot better than them.”
Zeke Mayo 3-7 5-7 12, Avion Nelson 2-6 0-0 5, Truman Juelsgaard 3-5 0-0 8, Jackson Dooley 3-6 2-4 10, Pearse Long 6-10 0-0 17, Jack Ryan 0-0 0-0 0, Corban Oberzan 0-1 0-0 0, Ntense Obono 1-2 2-2 4. Totals: 18-37 FG 9-13 FT 56 points.
Free State (40)
Mozae Downing 6-15 3-4 17, Dash Cleveland 5-8 0-1 10, Jailen Thompson 3-6 0-0 6, Andrew Piper 2-4 0-0 4, Cooper Jackson 1-12 0-0 3, Cole Wheeler 0-0 0-0 0, Kris Daniels 0-1 0-0 0. Totals: 17-46 FG 3-5 FT 40 points.
Lawrence 13 19 6 18 — 56
Free State 6 9 15 10 — 40
3-point goals: LHS 11-22 (Mayo, Nelson, Juelsgaard 2, Dooley 2, Long 5); FSHS 3-17 (Downing 2, Jackson). Turnovers: LHS 13; FSHS 5. Fouled out: None.