Lions adjust quickly, open postseason with 59-36 victory

photo by: Carter Gaskins

Lawrence High's Avion Nelson (5) goes up for a dunk over Olathe Northwest players Aiden Sullivan (30) and Brady Robinson (21) Tuesday night at LHS on March 2, 2021.

It didn’t take Lawrence High long to find its bearings in Tuesday night’s substate opener. Once the Lions adjusted to some unexpected pressure, they found an easy route to the next round, advancing with a 59-36 win over Olathe Northwest.

LHS head coach Mike Lewis said the Ravens caught the Lions a bit off guard with their zone trap at first. But dealing with that also helped him hammer home a point to his team as the Lions (18-1) extended their winning streak to 10 games.

“It’s really hard to predict everything that’s going to go on in a game, and when you start to see something that’s a little bit different, you have to adjust,” he said. “And I thought our guys did a nice job.”

Pearse Long, who led the Lions’ balanced offense with 13 points, assured himself of a double-digit scoring night early in the fourth quarter by sneaking behind the Olathe Northwest defense and finishing strong at the rim on a reverse layup set up by one of Zeke Mayo’s six assists.

“He’s a nice target along that short corner when they’re running that 1-3-1 and even just some of their chaos with their trapping,” Lewis said of Long. “I thought our guards did a pretty nice job of finding him, and he did a nice job of finding space.”

Long also shut down the final possession of the third quarter by finishing inside, drawing a foul and hitting his free throw, all of it set up by an assist from Truman Juelsgaard. Lawrence headed to the fourth up 41-24 after Brady Robinson beat the third quarter buzzer for Olathe Northwest with a 3-pointer.

The Lions entered the second half up 12, and their lead kept growing throughout the third quarter. Mayo, a dynamic scorer for one of the best teams in Class 6A, played the role of creator often, including on an impressive third quarter fast break, dropping a pristine bounce pass for Jackson Dooley, who scored on a layup.

Soon after, Juelsgaard (11 points, three assists) cut hard to the hoop just as a pass from Mayo led him to the rim for a layup, contact and an old fashioned 3-point play that put Olathe Northwest (7-14) in a 20-point hole, 36-16.

“It’s just a great example of really unselfish play,” Lewis said of Mayo, who had 10 points, nine rebounds and six assists. “Just finding the open man and making a team pay for gambling and throwing a trap at us.”

An outlet pass from Avion Nelson hit Dooley (11 points) in stride in transition, giving Lawrence a low-pressure hoop to open up its third quarter. Next, Juelsgaard buried a right corner 3-pointer to make it a 31-16 cushion.

A touch pass from Corban Oberzan on the right side of the paint over to Long on the left made a layup possible after the Lions went through a bit of a lull in the later stages of the second quarter.

In the final minute of the opening half, Jack Ryan fed Mayo for an effortless layup, and the home team went into the locker room at halftime leading 26-14.

The Ravens scored just 5 points in the second quarter, and three of them came on an open 3-pointer off a long offensive rebound.

“I was impressed with our guys,” Lewis said of the defense. “We came in with an emphasis on not fouling. Last time we played them we fouled them way too much. So we just wanted to do a better job fundamentally.”

The first of Juelsgaard’s two 3-pointers on the night extended the Lions’ lead to 22-9 before Olathe Northwest finally scored its first basket of the second quarter near the midway point of the period.

Early in the action, long before the Lions closed out the win on their home court, Nelson, who finished with 9 points, delivered the jaw-dropping highlight of the night in the second quarter. Nelson drove down the heart of the lane for a vicious one-handed jam.

“He’s fun,” Lewis said of Nelson. “He likes to get out in the open court and show off his athleticism. That bounce, I wish I had half as much bounce as him and I could maybe even touch the bottom of the net or something.”

Mayo opened the second quarter with an and-one for Lawrence, and the Lions soon had their first commanding lead of the night when they dissected the Ravens’ zone to find Long for an open layup and a 17-9 advantage.

The Lions ran into some problems in the first quarter against the Ravens’ zone, which featured some trapping near midcourt. But after Olathe Northwest tied the game at 9, Mayo knocked down a 3-pointer from the right wing for his first basket of the postseason, assuring Lawrence a successful first quarter.

Nelson drained a 3-pointer up top in the opening minute for the first basket of the win and a 3-0 lead for the favored Lions. Nelson then nailed a right corner 3 the next trip up the floor for a 6-0 start against the Ravens’ zone.

Lawrence advances to a Friday matchup with Olathe West (10-10), which advanced Tuesday night by defeating Gardner Edgerton, 64-44.

“They’re a good team,” Lewis said of the Lions’ upcoming opponent, another Sunflower League foe. “They hang around with everybody they play.”

Lawrence 59, Olathe Northwest 36

Olathe Northwest (36)

Ethan Kemp 2 0-0 4, Ethan Rains 3 1-2 10, Zaid Dajani 6 1-4 14, Brady Robinson 2 0-0 6, Aiden Sullivan 1 0-2 2. Totals 14 2-8 36.

Lawrence (59)

Zeke Mayo 3-6 3-3 10, Truman Juelsgaard 3-6 3-3 11, Jackson Dooley 4-5 3-4 11, Pearse Long 6-11 1-2 13, Avion Nelson 3-4 1-2 9, Jack Ryan 1-3 2-2 3, Corban Oberzan 0-1 0-0 0, Ntense Obono 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 21-37 12-16 59.

Olathe NW 9 5 10 12 — 36

Lawrence 12 14 15 18 — 59

Three-point goals: ONW 6 (Rains 3, Robinson 2, Dajani); LHS 5-for-12 (Nelson 2, Juelsgaard 2, Mayo). Fouled out: None. Turnovers: ONW 13, LHS 12.


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