Lawrence boys overwhelmed by Blue Valley North’s length during 71-63 loss in 6A semifinals
photo by: Chance Parker
Try as they might, the Lawrence High Lions couldn’t find a way to grow a few inches during the Class 6A semifinals Thursday afternoon at Wichita State University.
Lawrence was overwhelmed by Blue Valley North’s length inside throughout its 71-63 season-ending defeat. The Lions, who played all postseason without their starting big man, surrendered 42 points in the paint in their loss to the Mustangs.
LHS ends the year with a 20-2 overall record, while Blue Valley North (20-3) advances to the Class 6A state championship game.
“Yeah, gosh darn. They were big and fast,” Lawrence head coach Mike Lewis said. “They were clicking on all cylinders.”
To be fair, the starting lineups probably should have flashed warning signs for the Lions. Blue Valley North trotted out 6-foot-8 senior Andrew Orr, 6-foot-6 senior Nikko Taylor and 6-foot-5 senior Isaac Patterson to open the game.
Junior Pearse Long, who is 6-foot-5, was the only LHS forward listed over 6-foot-1. The Lions were also without 6-foot-5 junior Grant Cleavinger for the seventh straight game due to an injury.
It all became evident within the first eight minutes of the contest. After the two teams traded early punches, Blue Valley North went on a 14-0 run late in the first quarter. It was a stretch that was capped by a two-handed slam from 6-foot-3 junior Kernan Bundy.
The Mustangs, who jumped out to a 18-7 lead after the opening period, never looked back.
“We got out of sync and just got a little frustrated,” Lewis said. “Team defense is as much rhythm as offense.”
“We were off there for a while,” Lewis added.
Lawrence’s Zeke Mayo, who finished with a game-high 41 points, picked up his second foul on a charge attempt at the 5:54 mark in the second period. Mayo shrugged off a substitution, so the Lions switched to zone defense instead.
The zone defense disrupted Blue Valley North for a bit, allowing Lawrence to cut into its deficit. Junior guard Avion Nelson started things with a strong right-handed take, finding a way to finish at the rim.
One possession later, Nelson missed a 3-pointer from the top of the key and managed to grab his own rebound. The ball ended up back in the hands of Lawrence junior Truman Juelsgaard, who knocked down a triple to trim the deficit to 9 points.
The Mustangs called a timeout, and then came back with a counter of their own. They started setting screens to open up some perimeter attempts. Bundy buried back-to-back 3-pointers, as Blue Valley North stretched its advantage out to a 40-22 margin by halftime.
“It was a rough start for us obviously,” Mayo said. “We couldn’t play very much help defense like we did last game. Otherwise they did what they did, made shots early. It put us in a deep hole.”
Blue Valley North ended up having three players finish in double figures, led by a 23-point performance from Patterson. Orr scored 17 points, while Bundy finished with 12 points. Taylor netted 9 points as well for the Mustangs.
As a team, the Mustangs shot 25-for-43 from the floor. Sixteen of those makes were labeled layup or dunk by WSU’s official stat broadcast. Blue Valley North, which notched 19 assists, also demonstrated great ball movement that led to a lot of efficient shots.
“Our five starters really play well together,” Blue Valley North coach Ryan Phifer said. “It doesn’t matter who is scoring or not, they feed off each other.”
“That’s what we’ve been about all year,” Phifer added.
The Lions never gave up, putting a valiant effort together in the fourth quarter to at least make the Mustangs work for the win.
Mayo scored all 29 points for LHS in the final period, knocking down 10-of-11 shots from the field. He went 4-for-5 from long range, including a 3-pointer from the right wing with four seconds remaining for the final basket of his four-year career.
Plenty of LHS players put it all on the line over the final eight minutes, too. Seniors Corban Oberzan, Ntense Obono and Jackson Dooley battled inside all night, despite giving up a distinct size advantage.
Oberzan dove for multiple loose balls, and even managed to draw a charge in the second half, before eventually fouling out on a block attempt with 3:14 left to play.
Lawrence’s best chance to make things interesting came midway through the fourth quarter after a few missed free throws by Blue Valley North. Juelsgaard (from the corner) and Long (right wing) misfired on back-to-back 3-pointers. Junior Jack Ryan wasn’t able to finish on a follow attempt either.
The Lions never really had another reasonable shot, though that wasn’t for a lack of trying. They threw a full-court pressure defense at the Mustangs, and fought for every loose ball while Mayo went nuclear on the offensive end.
“I’m just really proud of our guys,” Lewis said. “I’m proud of our season. The journey we’ve been on, it’s been great. For us to get to the final four, and to get through Blue Valley Northwest to get here.”
“We just weren’t quite good enough today,” Lewis added.
Blue Valley North (71)
Kernan Bundy 5-9 0-0 12, Nikko Taylor 4-9 1-2 9, Isaac Patterson 6-8 9-11 23, Andrew Orr 7-9 3-4 17, Luke Adams 2-5 0-2 4, John David Roane 0-0 1-4 1, Charles Gambill 0-1 0-0 0, Luc Devore 1-2 3-5 5. Totals: 25-43 FG 17-28 FT 71 points.
Zeke Mayo 15-27 7-7 41, Avion Nelson 3-10 0-0 6, Truman Juelsgaard 2-4 0-0 6, Jackson Dooley 2-4 0-0 5, Pearse Long 1-8 0-0 3, Jack Ryan 0-2 0-0 0, Ntense Obono 1-2 0-0 2, Corban Oberzan 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 24-57 FG 7-7 FT 63 points.
Lawrence 7 15 12 29 — 63
Blue Valley North 18 22 11 20 — 71
Three-point goals: LHS 8-26 (Mayo 4, Juelsgaard 2, Dooley, Long); BVN 4-12 (Bundy 2, Patterson 2). Turnovers: LHS 23, BVN 12. Fouled out: Obono, LHS; Oberzan, LHS.