Manhattan cuts LHS boys postseason short at substate championship

Lawrence High junior Zaxton King drives to the basket against Manhattan High on Friday, March 3, 2023.

Hopes of a lengthy run at state for the No. 3-seeded Lawrence High boys basketball were squashed by No. 6 Manhattan in Friday night’s 56-40 loss in the substate championship at LHS.

Trailing by double digits for most of the second half, LHS (17-5) got within seven of the Indians (14-8) on a three-point basket by Lions senior Will Leuschen with 5:26 left to play. Even with the late shot in the arm, LHS couldn’t climb back and watched its season come to an end.

Leuschen led the scoring for LHS with 14 points, including four 3s. Fellow seniors Zaxton King and Jaylon Case each added seven points to the effort. The Lions finished the night on 13 of 37 shooting, burying 7 of 19 attempts from behind the arc.

“It’s hard when the buzzer goes off and you lose,” LHS coach Mike Lewis said after missing the state playoff. “It’s an emotional time and you try to let it go, you try to move on, but you also embrace the opportunity to tell people that you love and care about them.”

A quiet first quarter saw LHS cough up four turnovers and start the game 0 of 5 from the field, grappling with a tight Indians defense early. The Lions scraped up just two 2s from senior Cole Watson and King in the first, holding Manhattan to just six points entering the second.

Trailing by a basket, LHS opened the second quarter with high energy on a 7-0 run and led the Indians 11-6 with six minutes until halftime. Slowing down, the Lions ended the first half just 2 of 6 from outside, with two 3s coming from Leuschen and King.

Manhattan seniors Dre Delort and Jack Wilson, combining for 13 first-half points, pushed MHS in front of LHS by 6 late in the second. The Lions trailed 22-18 at the break.

Even returning senior starter Kenton Simmons inside, who’d missed Monday’s semifinal due to a rolled ankle, LHS allowed three Manhattan players to land in double-figure scoring. Wilson, Delort and Collins Elumogo combined for 39 points. Simmons finished with just two points on 1 of 6 shooting.

Lawrence High senior Kenton Simmons shoots the ball against Manhattan on Friday, March 3, 2023.

“(Simmons) fought his way to get back and he wasn’t 100%,” Lewis said. “He’s going up against two strong, athletic kids and we went into this game knowing we needed more than him.”

Despite an early three-point boost by Leuschen, LHS couldn’t keep up the pace with Manhattan’s offense in the third quarter. An 11-3 start after halftime saw the Indians leading by 12 late in the third, with the only relief for LHS coming by Case at the free-throw line.

Lewis said Manhattan knew when to put its foot down.

“They came out and continued to play well,” Lewis said of the second half. “We didn’t have the momentum shots to fall back on and slow them down. I thought we had some pretty good looks, but we just didn’t make those shots.”

Entering the fourth quarter down 37-25, LHS cut back within 7 of Manhattan when Leuschen knocked down his fourth 3 of the night with 5:26 left. Watson and senior Jude Harris joined the three-point barrage, but the Lions struggled to slow down Manhattan, which led by 16 with two minutes left.

Lewis, plenty familiar with the trials and tribulations of substate play, felt Manhattan coach Benji George courted a hard-nosed squad.

“There’s just not a lot of room for air,” Lewis said. “(George) has done a really nice job. He knew exactly what they, as a staff, wanted to go after and it worked out in their favor. To me, it’s just a classic, tough substate championship game.”


Lawrence High (40): Leuschen 5-9, 0-0, 14, King 2-9, 2-2, 7, Case 1-6, 5-6, 7, Watson 2-3, 0-0, 5, Harris 1-1, 0-0, 3, Simmons 1-6, 0-0, 2, Bassett 1-1, 0-0, 2. Totals: 13-37, 7-8, 40.

Manhattan High (56): Wilson 7-9, 3-4, 18, Delort 4-7, 2-6, 11, Kim 4-6, 0-0, 9, Coonrod 3-5, 2-4, 4, Braxmeyer 1-3, 0-0, 2, McNabb 1-2, 0-2, 2. Totals: 21-38, 11-22, 56.

3FGs: LHS 7-19 (Leuschen 4, King 1, Harris 1, Watson 1); MHS 3-6 (Delort 1, Wilson 1, Kim 1) TOs: LHS 11; MHS 13. Fouled out: LHS – King; MHS – none.

Lawrence High gathers during a timeout against Manhattan High on Friday, March 3, 2023.

Lawrence High senior Macade Lewis passes the ball against Manhattan High on Friday, March 3, 2023.


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