LHS boys basketball makes history, reaches 7th consecutive state tournament with 44-43 win over Olathe West
photo by: Matt Tait
The Lawrence High boys basketball team’s attempt to make history came down to one final play on Friday night against Olathe West in the LHS gym.
And it was the Lions’ best player, senior Zeke Mayo, whose defensive stop helped send Lawrence High to the Class 6A state tournament for a school-record seventh consecutive season after a 44-43 victory in the sub-state championship game.
Mayo’s 19 points didn’t hurt, either.
“This is the most important possession of our season right here,” Mayo recalled telling his teammates before the Lions’ final stop that secured the victory. “So I told them, ‘If we lock down right here, we’re going to state and we’re setting our record that we came in here for.'”
The Lions (19-1) did just that, defending Olathe West for more than a full minute while clinging to a 1-point lead, as the Owls (11-11) elected to hold for one final shot after taking possession after a steal with 1:03 to play.
After milking the clock for more than 30 seconds, the Owls called timeout with 31.2 seconds to play. From there, they finally attacked with about 12 seconds left, but a drive to the paint produced an errant pass that was deflected out of bounds off the Lions with 2.5 seconds remaining.
An LHS timeout set the stage for the final defensive stop and with his teammates sticking tight to their men, Mayo soared above the player he was guarding to deflect the deep inbounds pass off of the Olathe West player and out of bounds near midcourt. From there, all the Lions had to do was inbound the ball — which they did to Mayo, of course — and wait for the final horn to sound.
When it did, the players exploded in a wild celebration, hugging and high-fiving each other and the limited number of fans, who filled the building with the kind of noise worthy of sending a team off to state.
“This is what it’s supposed to be,” LHS coach Mike Lewis said. “It’s supposed to come down the wire and you walking out of here feeling like you’ve earned it.”
Even with Olathe West doing everything it could to keep the ball away from him, Mayo was nearly unstoppable in the two quarters in which he scored all of his points, 10 in the first and 9 in the third.
But Lewis said the defensive play at the end said as much about Mayo as any of his eight made field goals in 12 attempts, which included a 3-of-6 clip from 3-point range.
“The last two or three games, you know he’s had 12, 13 rebounds and 10 or 12 points, five or six assists. He’s not just a 20-points-a-night guy,” Lewis said. “He counts on his teammates, they count on him, and that’s the beauty of this group.”
Mayo said that was his “main goal right now, just to facilitate for everybody.”
“I’m not out here to prove nothing to nobody,” he said. “I’m just out here to play basketball and do whatever it takes to win.”
All of the Lions who played on Friday carried that same mentality onto the court. Truman Juelsgaard battled through foul trouble to score 9 points, including two big ones on a tough baseline drive late. Pearse Long added 8 points, including a couple of 3-pointers. And Jackson Dooley led the Lions’ effort on the glass with seven total rebounds, which helped keep Olathe West to one-shot-and-out on most of its possessions.
Avion Nelson, Ntense Obono and Jack Ryan, who combined for LHS’s other eight points, also contributed four combined rebounds, with Corban Oberzan grabbing a board, as well.
“We just challenged our guys,” Lewis said. “All coaches do, right? But our guys bought into it. It’s about everybody rebounding, and I thought they did a nice job.”
The win moves the Lions into Monday’s state quarterfinal game and puts them three wins shy of the elusive state title that they’ve been chasing.
LHS will play at Blue Valley Northwest (21-1) at 6 p.m. The Huskies defeated Olathe South 74-46 on Friday night, and they are the only team to beat LHS this season.
The Lions will put in plenty of work preparing for that in the next couple of days. But Friday was all about celebrating the school record, which topped the previous one that was set from 1916 to 1922.
“You look back at all seven of those teams, all those seniors, and, you know, it’s just been a great run,” Lewis said. “It’s just been a lot of fun.”
Added Mayo: “I’ve been here the last four years and that legacy has been there the whole time. For us to continue to carry that on, we did this for coach. I know how much it means to him. He’s a great coach and, even more, a phenomenal person.”
Lawrence 44, Olathe West 43
Olathe West (43)
Mike Anderson 1-1 0-0 3, Reggie Dennis 3-6 1-2 7, Brisyn Robinson 1-3 2-4 4, Thatcher Ahlers 0-0 0-0 0, Aidan Sturdivan 2-6 2-2 8, Tommy Faseru 3-7 2-3 9, Mitch Warren 0-0 0-0 0, Tanner Zimmerman 0-0 0-0 0, Mikai Blakeney 1-2 0-0 3, Jayson Luse 0-1 2-2 2, Terique Suwareh 0-0 0-0 0, Carter Lichtsinn 3-5 0-0 7. Totals 14-31 9-13 43.
Zeke Mayo 8-12 0-0 19, Truman Juelsgaard 3-6 2-2 9, Jackson Dooley 0-1 0-0 0, Pearse Long 3-9 0-0 8, Avion Nelson 1-6 2-2 4, Ntense Obono 1-2 0-0 2, Jack Ryan 1-1 0-0 2, Corban Oberzan 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 17-37 4-4 44.
Olathe West 14 12 5 12 — 43
Lawrence 17 5 14 8 — 44
Three-point goals: OW 6-17 (Sturdivan 2, Anderson, Blakeney, Lichtsinn 1 each); LHS 6-for-20 (Mayo 3, Long 2, Juelsgaard 1). Fouled out: None. Turnovers: OW 13, LHS 14.