LHS, Free State boys basketball teams open 2022-23 season with big wins
A fourth-quarter rally by the Lawrence High boys basketball team led to a 64-56 win over Blue Valley Southwest in Friday night’s season-opener at LHS.
Junior Zaxton King led the Lions with 34 points, shooting 9 of 15 from the field and chipping in a pair of 3-pointers along the way. Senior Macade Lewis also contributed to the late push, scoring 10 points and hitting six of his eight points from the stripe in the fourth quarter.
The Lions (1-0) started slow, coughing up three turnovers shortly after the tipoff and finding themselves down by double-digits midway through the first quarter. Three first-quarter 3s between BV Southwest’s Jackson Noland and Jackson Bonczynski helped the Wolves jump out to a 19-9 lead by the end of the first quarter.
LHS coach Mike Lewis takes away all he can from home openers. Lewis, beginning his 15th season with the Lions, considers his group fortunate to have a game at home to evaluate themselves before next week’s Ruskin Shootout at Blue Valley High School.
“You throw them in the fire in a game like that,” Lewis said. “That’s what it’s going to take to stop a team because you can’t simulate that practice. That experience on the court allows us to get better, defensively, and whether it’s guarding the 3 or maybe there’s a post that we’re trying to keep an eye on, you just get better with that experience on the floor.”
BV Southwest played far less conservatively in the second quarter with six turnovers, tripling its first-quarter margin that glided through the LHS defense. Routine looks to Zaxton King, who posted 14 first-half points, led to the Lions grabbing their first lead of the night, 21-20, with 3:06 to go in the half.
In the final two minutes of the second quarter, LHS’s Lance Bassett drew three shooting fouls and chipped in a late layup to keep the Lions’ offense in gear. LHS led BV Southwest by three at the break.
Southwest’s Dylan Dunn, Emmitt Peters and Alex Parks all found success from behind the arc in the third quarter, helping the Wolves recapture the lead, 43-35, heading into the fourth. Despite posting 18 first-quarter points, BV Southwest struggled to get through LHS’s Kenton Simmons, who blocked two shots by Quillian Rank in his first minutes of the night.
Watching his big men settle in at the 5 spot, Lewis said he hoped three senior forwards would help the Lions build a stable presence inside this season.
“We want to be a balanced team,” Lewis said. “We can’t hop on Zaxton’s back and just ride him because we’ve got too many good players around him. And you’re seeing it right when you start talking about Kenton and Lance. The three of them, tonight, all contributed in different ways. And there’s a physicality with Lance and Kenton that that Will (Leuschen) might not have. But Will brings a couple things those other two don’t have. It just allows us to be balanced.”
Biting at the Wolves’ heels, LHS found itself trailing by one point after two late 3s from King and an and-one bucket from Macade Lewis brought the Lions within one basket with 3:10 to go. Another trip to the stripe by Lewis and a long two-pointer by Leuschen gave LHS a three-point lead, its first since halftime, with 1:47 left to play.
Up 57-52 with under a minute to play, LHS cut it close, again, when it surrendered four easy points to BV Southwest at the free throw line with 35 seconds to play. The Lions managed to draw and score off four fouls by the Wolves before the final whistle, stretching out the lead enough to escape with the win.
Lewis said Friday’s victory looked great on paper but he expects his group to be ready for a tough slate of basketball next week at Blue Valley.
“This was a great warmup for the shootout,” Lewis said. “We’ll play, most likely, two or three teams that play a different style and have a different vibe to them. We’ll have to adjust and see where it goes.”
King 9-15, 14-15, 34, Lewis 1-6, 8-11, 10, Bassett 1-1, 4-8, 6, Harris 2-2, 1-2, 5, Leuschen 1-2, 2-2, 4, Simmons 1-2, 1-2, 3, Ostronic 0-0, 1-2, 1, Case 0-1, 1-2, 1. Totals: 15-30, 32-44, 64.
Blue Valley Southwest (56)
Rank 4-6, 7-8, 17, Noland 5-11, 0-0, 12, Dunn 4-7, 0-0, 10, Everard 3-4, 1-2, 7, Parks 2-3, 0-0, 5, Peters 1-3, 0-0, 3, Bonczynski 1-1, 0-0 2. Totals: 20-35, 8-10, 56.
3-PT FGs: LHS 2-11 (King 2); BV Southwest 8-18 (Noland 2, Rank 2, Dunn 2, Peters 1, Parks 1).
Firebirds reach Hays title game
New Free State coach Sherron Collins, the former KU point guard who took over for Sam Stroh in the offseason, opened his coaching career with a pair of wins this week at the Hays City Shootout.
The Firebirds (2-0) rolled over Thomas Moore Prep on Thursday, 76-34, and then knocked off host school Hays High, 59-54, on Friday night.
Free State will face Olathe West in the tournament’s championship game at 7 p.m. Saturday night in a matchup of two teams ranked in the Top 10 early in the season.