Highlight-filled 3rd quarter helps Lions put away MVHS

photo by: Chance Parker

Lawrence junior guard Avion Nelson slams it in against Mill Valley. Lawrence High won at Mill Valley Friday, Jan. 15, 2021.

If a slow second quarter left anyone wondering what was going on with the third-ranked Lawrence High boys basketball team, the Lions put all concerns to rest by blazing through the second half in a 57-31 victory at Mill Valley on Friday night.

Led by 23 points from junior forward Pearse Long and 18 more from senior guard Zeke Mayo, LHS stayed unbeaten, improving to 7-0.

Long opened the second half by turning a head fake at the top of the key into a buried jumper while drawing a foul, leading to an eruption on the visitors’ bench. But the Lions, who would extend their lead to 42-25 by the end of the period, were just getting warmed up with that highlight.

Mayo drained a 3-pointer from the right wing on the Lions’ second possession of the third quarter, pushing the margin to 16. A couple of trips up and down the court later, Mayo rose up on the opposite side and buried another 3-pointer to make it 33-12.

At the 4:38 mark, Mayo worked his way toward the middle of the floor to knock down his next 3, stroking another one as the Lions continued to cruise.

“Zeke was really in a groove,” LHS head coach Mike Lewis said afterward. “But I thought just our ability to rebound and get out and break and play into some space and hit some rhythm shots — that momentum really went our way.”

But somehow, Mayo’s hot streak was nearly overshadowed when 6-foot-2 junior guard Avion Nelson (9 points) crashed the offensive glass and threw down a putback jam for the Lions.

“He’s got a lot of bounce, and he’s got a lot of fire in his belly, too, where that ball’s coming off that rim and he goes and attacks it,” Lewis said. “We really like Avion for a number of reasons. His athleticism was a lot of fun.”

In the final minute of the third, Nelson sprinted through a passing lane for a steal and a one-handed jam. Lewis said his team seemed to play a little harder defensively and the game felt easier for the Lions once they started clicking in the third.

The Lions took a comfortable 23-10 lead into the locker room at halftime after a low-scoring second quarter, in which MVHS and LHS produced 6 points apiece.

“We had obviously a lull offensively. Just got a little stagnant, and — kind of the opposite of the third quarter — just lost some of our momentum,” Lewis said. “We needed some sort of a breakout play or a play that would give us a little bit of juice, and we just weren’t quite getting that yet.”

LHS went up 8-3 near the midway point of the first quarter, when Long knocked down an open 3-pointer. The Lions turned that into their first big burst of the night, building a 17-4 lead by the end of the first.

“I thought we came into the first quarter wanting to be pretty clean on our sets, and I thought our guys did a nice job running our sets and getting the looks we were trying to get,” Lewis said.

Defensive energy from the Lions set them up for success, too, on a night when Mayo led the way with four steals. Lewis said his players were in position for the most part and were willing to get to the 50-50 balls when they saw them.

“We were just a little bit more aggressive than they were,” Lewis said.

Lawrence’s varsity team was the only one that got to play at MVHS on Friday. The freshman A and B games and the sophomore and junior varsity games had to be postponed because of a positive COVID-19 test result within the Mill Valley program.

Lewis said he was thankful the varsity game still happened after MVHS got clearance from the health department that it was safe for members of the Jaguars’ varsity team to compete.

LHS is off until Thursday, when the Lions will travel to Olathe East for a rescheduled game.

Lawrence 57, Mill Valley 31

Lawrence (57)

Zeke Mayo 6-9 2-2 18, Truman Juelsgaard 0-3 2-2 2, Jackson Dooley 1-3 0-0 2, Grant Cleavinger 1-4 0-0 2, Pearse Long 9-13 0-1 23, Avion Nelson 4-5 0-2 9, Jack Ryan 0-1 0-0 0, Corban Oberzan 0-1 1-2 1. Totals 21-40 5-9 57.

Mill Valley (31)

Nick Mason 0 0-0 0, Pete Janssen 2 1-3 5,

Nen Matlock 2 1-1 5, Dylan Blazer 2 3-4 8,

Adrian Dimond 3 2-2 8, Jackson Van Dyke 0 2-2 2, Aaron Kephart 1 0-0 3, Zach Shrader 0 0-0 0. Totals 10 9-12 31.

LHS 17 6 19 15 — 57

MVHS 4 6 15 6 — 31

Three-point goals: LHS 10-24 (Long 5-9, Mayo 4-7, Nelson 1-2); MVHS 2 (Kephart, Blazer). Fouled out: Zach Shrader, MVHS. Turnovers: LHS 9.

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