Lions wrap up undefeated Sunflower League record with team win over Raiders
photo by: Chance Parker
Everyone did their part to ensure that the Lawrence High boys basketball team wouldn’t have to share the Sunflower League title this season.
Behind contributions from all eight players that stepped on the floor on Tuesday, Lawrence surged past Shawnee Mission South for a 58-45 home win. Seven different players scored, while Zeke Mayo, Truman Juelsgaard and Avion Nelson all ended up in double figures for LHS
It was more than enough to help the Lions close out the regular season with a 17-1 overall record, including 13-0 in Sunflower League action. It marks the third season in a row that Lawrence has won the league title, with two of them being outright.
“It just means a lot,” LHS head coach Mike Lewis said. “It’s a true team effort. It just feels good, our guys worked hard for it.”
The way the league standings work, Lawrence (No. 2 in Class 6A) technically would have shared the crown with Free State (No. 5 in Class 6A) with a loss on Tuesday even though LHS won the City Showdown by 16 points on Friday. LHS actually shared the league title with Free State and Olathe West last season.
But the Lions had no interest in letting things come to a technicality this time around.
“It was really important,” junior Jack Ryan said of winning it outright. “But we just thought of it kind of as a regular game, so that we didn’t hype it up too much.”
Ryan, who comes off the bench, was one of the many individuals to play a role in Lawrence flipping the script in the second half after Shawnee Mission South (15-4, No. 6 in Class 6A) grabbed a 20-16 lead at halftime. The hosts scored 42 points over the final two quarters.
Mayo, who finished with 15 points to match Juelsgaard for the team high, got the comeback effort started by netting nine of his points in the third quarter. He drove through the heart of the Raiders’ defense for a tough and-one at the 5:01 mark.
The Lions took a 25-23 advantage on that particular sequence, and they never trailed again. Mayo was far from done, however. He converted on a floater one minute later and then pulled up to drill a triple from the left wing shortly after that.
Mayo pounded his chest in celebration after the 3-pointer, though Shawnee Mission South didn’t go away after that. The Raiders pulled back within 1 point just two minutes later before Mayo came up with a timely steal by getting in the passing lane.
The senior guard quickly pushed the ball the other way, finding Ryan open along the right wing.
Ryan launched it at the rim, taking in contact from a defender as he did. The ball splashed through the net, and a foul was called. Seniors Jackson Dooley and Corban Oberzan picked Ryan up off the floor, while congratulating him on the play.
“I didn’t really see the guy, so I just let it fly,” Ryan said. “Then I just was on the ground, so I don’t even know if it went in or not because I couldn’t see.”
Ryan’s shot did go down, and so did his free throw to complete the four-point play at the 1:21 mark in the third quarter.
“I think that was a swing in the game because our second half was way better than our first half,” Ryan said.
To follow up Ryan’s remarkable play, Oberzan came through with a driving layup one minute later. He threaded his way through traffic before finishing at the rim, and nodding his head toward the bench in celebration after the play.
Neither Ryan nor Oberzan are the usual suspects for big baskets, but they certainly delivered when the Lions needed them on Tuesday.
“I’m really proud of those two,” Lewis said. “We just have guys who come in and we don’t miss a beat too often. Our guys come in and they are ready to roll.”
Nelson, who has started the last three games for junior Grant Cleavinger, really exemplifies that next-man-up mentality. Nelson finished with 14 points on 4-of-11 shooting, scoring 10 of those points in the fourth quarter to help the Lions put the game away. He even opened the final period with post-ups on back-to-back possessions, and kept finding a way to get to the line.
With 6-foot-5 Cleavinger sidelined, LHS has to play smaller than it has all year. Senior Ntense Obono has been doing an admirable job of battling in the post in his absence. Dooley defended a player five inches taller than him for much of the game against Shawnee Mission South as well.
Junior Pearse Long has also played a key part on both ends of the floor as of late for Lawrence. And that total-team effort was ultimately why the Lions were able to post an unblemished record in the Sunflower League, which features four top-10 teams in the latest poll and had as many as five ranked squads earlier this month.
“We’re fortunate to play well against our league opponents this year,” Lewis said. “I’m really proud of our guys. I emphasized with our guys that a league title means something. Our guys can stick their chest out and be really proud about that.”
Lawrence will host Gardner Edgerton (7-12) in the substate opener on Tuesday.
SM South (45)
Erik Smith 5-15 5-6 16, Jack Webb 1-4 0-2 2, Harrison Hughes 1-3 0-0 2, Andrew Brewer 4-9 0-0 8, Max Close 1-2 0-0 2, Blake Potthoff 4-12 2-2 12, Ike McLey 1-4 0-0 3. Totals: 17-49 FG 7-10 FT 45 points.
Zeke Mayo 5-11 3-6 15, Avion Nelson 4-11 6-7 14, Truman Juelsgaard 3-6 7-9 15, Jackson Dooley 0-1 0-0 0, Pearse long 1-4 2-2 4, Ntense Obono 1-2 2-2 4, Jack Ryan 1-1 1-1 4, Corban Oberzan 1-1 0-0 2. Totals: 16-37 FG 21-27 FT 58 points.
SM South 9 11 14 11 — 45
Lawrence 10 6 20 22 — 58
3-point goals: SMS 4-21 (Potthoff 2, McLey, Smith); LHS 5-13 (Mayo 2, Juelsgaard 2, Ryan). Turnovers: SMS 7; LHS 4. Fouled out: Harrison Hughes, SMS.