Lawrence boys knock off Blue Valley Northwest on road, advance to Class 6A semifinals
photo by: Chance Parker
Overland Park — It was pure pandemonium once the final buzzer went off, and Lawrence High’s boys basketball team had officially knocked off the three-time state champions in their own house with a 52-47 win over Blue Valley Northwest on Monday.
Senior Ntense Obono and junior Avion Nelson were the first to do anything by getting together for a chest bump. Seniors Jackson Dooley and Zeke Mayo followed suit with an even higher chest bump of their own. Junior Truman Juelsgaard ran toward the LHS student section and waved his No. 11 jersey in their direction.
The party didn’t stop there, though. The Lions made their way near midcourt, where their fearless leader, Mayo, broke out in dance. The entire team egged him on as they made their way to an elated student section for their final destination of a proper postgame celebration.
For the first time since 2017, Lawrence has advanced past the opening round of the Class 6A state tournament. Better yet, the Lions had to eliminate their nemesis to do so, as the Huskies have ended their season twice in the last four years.
“There’s teams over the last six or seven years that had a chance against Blue Valley Northwest and didn’t get it done,” LHS head coach Mike Lewis said. “This win is not only for us, but really for us as a program. I’m just really proud of our guys.”
photo by: Chance Parker
While the postgame celebration was euphoric, many of the Lions (20-1) knew well before the final buzzer that they would be advancing to the final four. In fact, the dagger against the Huskies (21-2) really came on the defensive end with 1:30 left to play.
Following a pair of free throws by Juelsgaard to give Lawrence a 48-47 advantage — its first lead since the second quarter — Blue Valley Northwest ran a set to get senior Alston Mason the ball on the right wing.
Mason beat Juelsgaard to his right, and drove hard at the rim. Mayo, however, slid over to help and was able to draw a timely charge under the basket. He admitted that his decision to do so was because of what he read in the scouting report.
“That was probably my biggest play (while) playing here,” said Mayo, who has been a four-year player for the Lions. “I think a lot of people look at me as a scorer, this year especially. But I think when I step up on defense, I can really prove that I can play defense and I’m smart.”
Once the official signaled that it was a charge, Mayo flexed in celebration before telling Juelsgaard that the game was going to go Lawrence’s way in the end.
“I looked at Zeke and he was like, ‘Yeah, it’s game,'” Juelsgaard said. “It was awesome. Zeke was just there, and then he took it. It was so big for us.”
While the rest of what followed might have been a formality, it proved to be just as crucial in the Lions closing things out.
Juelsgaard went to the line with 29.3 seconds remaining, hitting the first free throw before missing the second. Obono’s hustle on the glass allowed the Lions to maintain possession, and junior Pearse Long was fouled on the ensuing inbound pass.
Long proceeded to hit both of his attempts from the charity stripe, giving the Lions a 51-47 advantage with 26.9 seconds remaining.
One possession later, Nelson’s tenacious defensive effort forced a turnover on an errant pass by the Huskies. Once sophomore guard Grant Stubblefield was ruled out of bounds, Nelson roared in approval and strutted to the other end of the floor.
“It was our ball, and I knew we were going to win,” Nelson said. “So I just had to start celebrating.”
photo by: Chance Parker
For good measure, Juelsgaard knocked down another free throw with 14.6 seconds left to play. Mayo, who finished with a game-high 27 points, misfired on his final two attempts at the charity stripe. But that didn’t matter.
Thanks to a team effort, Lawrence completely flipped the script from its regular-season meeting with Blue Valley Northwest. In the same gym, the fourth quarter got away from the Lions in an eventual 72-50 loss to the Huskies on Jan. 26.
This time around, LHS posted a 13-5 advantage over Blue Valley Northwest in the fourth quarter. The Huskies didn’t score a single point after Mason buried a 3-pointer to give the hosts a 47-42 lead at the six-minute mark in the final period.
“We didn’t let certain things get to our heads,” Dooley said. “We stayed on our own bench and we hit big free throws. And we got a lot of big rebounds.”
Just like the regular-season meeting, Lawrence came out strong by grabbing a 12-4 advantage. Juelsgaard drilled a 3-pointer to provide the first points of the night. Nelson also knocked down a triple of his own early on.
Blue Valley Northwest answered with a 11-0 run to get out in front, taking a 15-14 advantage into the second quarter. The second period featured two more lead changes, but the Huskies eventually took control of the contest.
At one point, Blue Valley Northwest led by a 41-32 margin midway through the third quarter. The Lions, who were without junior post Grant Cleavinger, kept giving up second-chance opportunities on the defensive end while also struggling to take care of the rock on offense.
They never seemed to panic, even though it was a rare road quarterfinal game due to a unique format for this year’s state tournament.
“We just came together at the end and pushed through it,” Juelsgaard said. “Coach told us in the locker room before the game that it was going to go by possession to possession and come down to the wire. We needed to come together and be a team, and that’s what we did.”
Lawrence will now get to make its trip to Wichita, as only the final four teams earned that right this season. LHS will face Blue Valley North (19-3) in its semifinal matchup at 3 p.m Thursday at Wichita State University.
“We were expected to lose this game,” Mayo said. “We were the underdogs coming into the tournament. But we took care of business tonight, and we are going down to Wichita now. I’m very confident in what we have going.”
Lawrence High (52)
Zeke Mayo 10-21 4-7 27, Avion Nelson 4-6 1-2 10, Truman Juelsgaard 2-6 4-6 9, Jackson Dooley 1-1 0-0 2, Pearse Long 1-4 2-2 4, Jack Ryan 0-0 0-0 0, Ntense Obono 0-1 0-0 0, Corban Oberzan 0-1 0-0 0. Totals: 18-40 FG 11-17 FT 52 points.
Blue Valley Northwest (47)
Grant Stubblefield 3-7 2-6 9, Alston Mason 6-19 2-4 18, Jack Chapman 6-12 2-5 14, Nick Sullivan 0-0 0-0 0, Ben Fritz 1-6 4-4 6. Totals: 16-44 FG 10-19 FT 47 points.
Lawrence 14 12 13 13 — 52
BV Northwest 15 16 11 5 — 47
3-point goals: LHS 5-13 (Mayo 3, Nelson, Juelsgaard); BVNW 5-10 (Stubblefield, Mason 4). Turnovers: LHS 15; BVNW 11. Fouled out: Nick Sullican, BVNW