Lions prepare to face one of Missouri’s best
Don Allen isn't kidding himself. The Lansing High boys basketball coach knows his squad's season-opener against Hogan Prep will be tough.
Hogan Prep isn't an ordinary team by any means. It went 18-10 last year and placed fourth at the Missouri Class 3 state tournament. It ended the year ranked No. 12 in the Kansas City Metro area in the MetroSports Super 25 poll.
Oh yeah, there's one more thing. The Rams have everybody back this year.
"They've got some athletic players and they do a good job in their system," Allen said. "They like to get it up and down the floor and attack you on defense."
Allen expects the Lions to be pressed from the moment their first round game of the Bonner Springs Tournament tips off at 3 p.m. today at the Bonner Springs YMCA, which is right next door to the high school. That's what the Rams did to their opponents during last year's tournament when they placed seventh.
Allen said he played close attention to Hogan Prep last year, and he has watched it play this season, too. He said Hogan hasn't changed much from last season to this one, and its system seems to work just fine because it owns a 3-0 record this year.
Regardless, Allen said he is more concerned with what his players are able to do during their first outing of the season. He wants to see them be patient, make smart passes, take care of the ball, knock down open shots and play tough defense. All of those things could be tough against the Rams' stifling press.
"The biggest factor is we can't let them dictate the flow of the game," Allen said. "If we get the opportunity to run down the floor and shoot the ball, I think we'll take it. But I don't know if it's in our best interest to turn it into a full-court, up-and-down game for four quarters."
In order for LHS to dictate the pace, senior guards Cody Mohan and Chris Wagner will have to maintain their composure under pressure and keep turnovers to a minimum. Allen said right now he's confident they will be up to the task.
"I am right now," he said, "but you're just not going to know until it happens to you. We're working at (beating the press) pretty hard in practice, but you can't simulate the real game atmosphere. We're just going to have to get out and see how we handle it."
Lansing is expected to use the same starting lineup as last year with Mohan and Wagner at the guard spots, senior Matt Warner on the wing and seniors David Kern and Jeff Slater in the post. Unlike last season, however, Allen doesn't want to have to play his starting five 28-30 minutes per game.
Injuries have hampered the squad during practice thus far, so Allen wants them to be able to rest. Slater has a bum ankle. Wagner has a nagging hamstring injury. Mohan has a sore hip and knee. Junior Jeff Jackson has a broken bone in his hand. Jackson was expected to see minutes in the post, but another emerging player has been senior forward Austin Reynolds. The 6-foot-4 Reynolds has had an impressive week of practice, Allen said, so he should get an opportunity to see some court time.
"Austin Reynolds really came in the last couple days and has done a good job," Allen said. "He's a senior. He knows the offense. He knows the defense. This tournament is as good a chance as any for him to step up and contribute minutes for us. He's been in the program. He knows the calls and he's looked pretty good for us the last couple of days. He's going to get his opportunity."
As for the Rams, a number of players are expected to see the court, too. Their top returners according to the Bonner Tournament program are Fred Patton (13.2 points, 8.3 rebounds), Greg Kearney (14.9, 2.5), Terrance Hill (14.5, 10.0) and Raven Simpson (6.3, 6.0), but those guys didn't show up in the box scores for their first two games. They reappeared in their 53-47 victory Tuesday against Park Hill, though, when Patton scored 19 points and Hill added 17.
If Lansing wins today, it will play the winner of Topeka Seaman and Harrisonville at 4:45 p.m. Friday. The losers of both games will play at 3 p.m. Friday. Atchison, Savannah, Bonner and Shawnee Heights also are in the tournament.