LHS boys falter in fourth quarter of 72-50 loss to Blue Valley Northwest

photo by: Chance Parker

Lawrence senior guard Zeke Mayo drives toward the paint against Blue Valley Northwest Tuesday night at BVNW on Jan. 26, 2021.

Overland Park — For three quarters at Blue Valley Northwest, Lawrence High’s boys basketball gave the defending three-time state champions all they could handle Tuesday night.

Ultimately, in a battle between the top two teams in Class 6A, the fourth quarter got away from Lawrence in a big way during its 72-50 loss.The Lions (No. 2 in Class 6A) suffered their first loss of the season, falling to 8-1 on the year.

The Huskies (No. 1 in Class 6A), who have won 29 games in a row dating back to a shortened season last winter, improved to 9-0 after Tuesday’s 22-point victory.

“We just didn’t have enough to get over that hump,” LHS head coach Mike Lewis said. “Pretty solid game, just maybe a little too emotional.”

“I think we got a little tired,” Lewis added about what happened in the fourth quarter. “They took us out of our offense, and we got sped up. Defensively, we had some breakdowns and they took advantage of each breakdown.”

Winning — and in convincing fashion in particular — is nothing really new for the Huskies. Entering Tuesday, they had won their previous eight games by an average of 25 points per contest.

But this game wasn’t really that, at least not until the fourth quarter. Blue Valley Northwest had a 49-42 advantage entering the final frame of a game that featured five lead changes, and LHS led by as many as eight. LHS junior Grant Cleavinger then cut the deficit to 5 on the first possession of the fourth period.

After that, the Huskies went on a 10-3 run that was highlighted by back-to-back triples from senior Jack Chapman and junior Joey Robinson. Chapman led the hosts with 20 points, while senior guard Alston Mason finished with 19 points.

LHS senior Zeke Mayo’s 3-pointer, which was his lone basket of the second half, was the only successful shot by the Lions over that four-minute span early in the fourth quarter.

It led to a timeout by the LHS staff, though that merely delayed the inevitable. Moments later, a Lawrence assistant was called for a technical and it forced Lewis to coach the final few minutes of the contest while sitting down on the bench.

Blue Valley Northwest outscored LHS, 23-8, over the fourth quarter. No other quarter had more than five points of separation between the two teams.

“They are a good team and have a lot of players that can beat you,” Lewis said. “They had some players hit some big shots (…) Then our wheels came off a little bit.”

Still, there is a lot for the Lions to learn from their first loss of the season because it was a chance to see how they stacked up against the defending champions.

“Our toughness was there,” Lewis said. “We got a little emotional. I think we let our opinion of some officiating bother us. Good or bad, we were probably too opinionated. But I thought our guys played hard and we played well.”

It also helps that the start of the game offered a lot of positive moments for the visitors. It was actually the Lions who took control out of the gate on the road — something they have become used to after playing all nine of their games away from home to start the season.

Junior Truman Juelsgaard drilled a 3-pointer from the right corner on the game’s opening possession, thanks to a nice kick-out pass on a strong drive by senior Jackson Dooley. Lawrence leaped out to a 9-2 advantage within the first four minutes of the game after that.

Mayo was the main source of offense for the Lions, especially early on. He scored nine of his 22 points in the opening period. Mayo earned an assist on the lone other basket in the first quarter that he didn’t score, which was a triple by Avion Nelson at the 3:29 mark.

LHS didn’t score for the rest of the first frame, however, and it set the stage for the hosts to cut into the early 8-point deficit. Blue Valley Northwest scored seven unanswered points to close out the first quarter, Lawrence held a 15-14 advantage entering the second period.

Things were a back-and-forth battle after that between the top-two teams in Class 6A. There were five lead changes in the second quarter alone, though Lawrence had another stagnant stretch toward the back end of the first half.

Jack Ryan’s basket on a timely rebound, which came in the final minute of the second quarter, was Lawrence’s lone field goal over the last three-plus minutes of the first half. It allowed the Huskies to grab a 30-25 advantage at the break.

The third quarter didn’t feature much separation, either, though LHS had to lean on other players for its offense. Blue Valley Northwest did its best to keep Mayo from catching the ball, and continued to play physically with him when he did have the rock.

“He was working for everything,” Lewis said of Mayo. “He was able to hit some Zeke-type shots. But anytime we tried to get something for Zeke that was specific, their counter was to be physical with him.”

Junior Pearse Long drilled a 3-pointer from the top of the key, while Dooley completed an impressive and-one sequence on a baseline floater. The Lions scored a game-high 16 points in the third period, but they weren’t able to maintain that momentum over the final eight minutes of action.

Lawrence will host Gardner-Edgerton at 7 p.m. Thursday in what will be the team’s home opener.

“It’s exciting,” Lewis said. “I’m not sure there are any teams in the state of Kansas that are waiting for the end of January for their first home game.”

The Lions will have more home games over the final month of the regular season, and they will continue to keep their first loss in mind as they prepare for the postseason.

“We will keep this game in our back pocket as motivation,” Lewis said. “Maybe if we can take care of business through February, we will get another chance with these guys.”

Lawrence High (50)

Zeke Mayo 6-16 7-8 22, Truman Juelsgaard 2-4 2-3 7, Jackson Dooley 2-4 1-1 5, Grant Cleavinger 1-2 0-0 2, Pearse Long 1-4 2-2 5, Ntense Obono 0-2 0-0 0, Avion Nelson 3-9 0-0 7, Corban Oberzan 0-1 0-0 0, Jack Ryan 1-1 0-0 2. Totals: 16-43 FG 12-14 FT 50 points.

Blue Valley NW (72)

Alston Mason 7-14 303 19, Joey Robinson 3-4 0-0 8, Jack Chapman 6-13 3-4 20, Nick Sullivan 3-4 1-1 7, Ben Fritz 1-5 0-0 2, Grant Stubblefield 4-7 4-6 12, Mikey Pauley 2-3 0-0 4. Totals: 26-50 FG 11-14 FT 72 points.

Lawrence High 15 11 16 8 — 50

Blue Valley NW 14 16 19 23 — 72

3-point goals: LHS 6-14 (Mayo 3, Juelsgaard, Long, Nelson); BVNW 9-12 (Mason 2, Robinson 2, Chapman 5). Turnovers: LHS 8; BVNW 8. Fouled out: None.

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