LHS boys basketball overwhelms Olathe East on defensive end in 64-33 win

photo by: Chance Parker

Lawrence junior forward Grant Cleavinger attempts shot against Mill Valley. Lawrence High defeated Mill Valley 57-31 Friday, Jan. 15, 2021.

Olathe — Thanks to a suffocating defensive effort over the final three quarters, Lawrence High’s boys basketball team cruised to a 64-33 win at Olathe East Thursday night to stay undefeated. The Lions improved to 8-0 on the year with the win, which includes a 4-0 clip in Sunflower League play.

After surrendering 16 points in the opening period, the Lions (No. 2 in Class 6A) really locked it on the defensive end the rest of the night. They gave up a combined 9 points to the Hawks over the second and third quarter to remove any doubt about the outcome.

“Just changing up our defense and giving them a different look created some momentum for us,” LHS head coach Mike Lewis said. “They got a little stagnant and we had a little pep to us.”

There wasn’t much defense by either squad in the first quarter, as Lawrence and Olathe East (0-4) played to a 16-16 deadlock. Olathe East junior William Keech buried a pair of 3-pointers, while fellow junior Nick Elliot also knocked down a triple.

The Hawks connected on five of their 11 shot attempts in the first quarter alone, forcing the Lions to change things up on that end of the floor. LHS decided to play zone after that, mixing in a full-court pressure look in its “diamond” defense during the second quarter.

And it worked to perfection. Olathe East didn’t score for the first 6 minutes, 45 seconds of the second quarter. Lawrence, meanwhile, went on a 14-0 run to grab a 30-16 advantage.

“That was a big point after the first quarter,” junior Grant Cleavinger said. “Coach Lewis said we gave up 16 (points) and that was pretty much unacceptable. Everyone kind of locked in from that point.”

“We just played much better ball defense,” Cleavinger added. “It really unlocked the key to getting more fast breaks.”

During that decisive stretch in the second quarter, senior guard Zeke Mayo recorded two of his team-high three steals. It led to easy buckets for junior Pearse Long and senior Corban Oberzan in transition.

That was really the theme of the night when the Lions were dialed in on the defensive end. They were getting in passing lanes and challenging shots at the rim. Junior Truman Juelsgaard and senior Ntense Obono each finished with two steals.

LHS was also usually limiting Olathe East to just one shot per possession by dominating the glass. Cleavinger, who finished with 12 points in the win, led the way with eight rebounds. Mayo collected seven rebounds during his 17-point performance.

The Hawks closed out the first half on a 7-0 run, so the Lions made another schematic switch after having a 30-23 lead at the intermission. LHS went back to its man defense in the third period, and the results were just as dominant.

Olathe East scored its lone bucket in the third quarter at the 1:18 mark. By then, LHS already had a 45-23 lead after starting the third period on a 15-0 run. Nearly all of Lawrence’s scoring production was set up by its stingy effort on the defensive end.

“I can’t think of a team that we just stopped them in their tracks like (we did) tonight,” Lewis said of his team’s defense on the season. “Good teams can mix it up defensively, and we are starting to get in the time of the year where being predictable is something we want to (avoid). We want to keep teams on their toes.”

Juelsgaard, who ended up with 7 points, knocked down a triple on an assist from senior Jackson Dooley during that run in the third quarter. Long emphasized getting to the rim all night, as he finished with 8 points and five rebounds in the win.

LHS was then able to empty its bench with three-plus minutes remaining in the game, though the defensive intensity never really let up.

Junior Jack Ryan, who delivered one of the better blocks of the night, was a key contributor in that final rotation. Sophomore Macade Lewis and freshman Zaxton King also played with a lot of energy in the final minutes.

Obono and junior guard Avion Nelson recorded highlight-worthy dunks in the closing stretch of the game. Both slams came after turnovers by Olathe East, which finished with 11 turnovers on the night.

Now, Lawrence will travel to Blue Valley Northwest on Tuesday in a highly-anticipated showdown between the top-two teams in Class 6A. Blue Valley Northwest (No. 1 in Class 6A) has won three consecutive state titles between 2017-19.

“They’ve been a powerhouse for awhile,” Cleavinger said. “It’s going to be a really fun game. Big test for where we are at as a team.”

Tipoff for that game is slated for 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Blue Valley Northwest.

“The timing is great,” Lewis said. “You get to see where you are at. Both teams have had a pretty good stretch here.”

“It will be a great test and I’m looking forward to our guys hopefully stepping up to the challenge,” Lewis added.

Lawrence (64)

Zeke Mayo 5-13 4-4 17, Truman Juelsgaard 3-8 0-0 7, Jackson Dooley 0-6 1-2 1, Grant Cleavinger 6-8 0-1 12, Pearse Long 2-9 4-4 8, Avion Nelson 2-4 2-2 7, Jack Ryan 1-3 0-0 2, Ntense Obono 2-3 0-0 4, Corban Oberzan 2-5 2-7 6. Totals: 23-59 FG 13-20 FT 64 points.

Olathe East (33)

Daryll McCrary 1-5 0-0 2, Brett Kaemmer 1-3 0-0 3, Nick Elliott 1-5 1-2 4, William Keech 4-5 0-0 11, Micah Deaver 1-9 3-4 5, Monzell Blake 2-10 2-3 6, Caden Gooding 0-1 0-0 0, Drew Purdy 1-1 0-0 2. Totals: 11-39 FG 6-9 FT 33 points.

Lawrence 16 14 18 16 — 64

Olathe East 16 7 2 8 — 33

3-point goals: LHS 5-16 (Mayo 3, Juelsgaard, Nelson); OE 5-11 (Keech 3, Elliot, Kaemmer). Turnovers: LHS 4; OE 11. Fouled out: None.


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