Team play still troubling Lansing boys
Lansing High boys' basketball coach Don Allen doesn't know how to make it any clearer to his players: They need to play together, pass the ball and run their offense properly.
The message is simple enough, and there's no question they know it. Heck, starters Cody Mohan, Jeff Slater, David Kern, Chris Wagner and Matt Warner all have talked about it at length.
Still, they continue to struggle to heed their coach's words on a consistent basis. The result is the Lions' present 5-8 record and 2-5 mark in Kaw Valley League play.
The most recent setbacks were a 59-53 loss Friday at home to Basehor-Linwood - a team LHS defeated by 13 in their previous meeting on Dec. 14 - and a 50-46 loss Tuesday at Perry-Lecompton. The Basehor-Linwood loss snapped Lansing's three-game winning streak that had followed a four-game skid.
What the Lions had done so well when they were winning - having constant motion on offense, making the extra pass, showing patience and playing ferocious defense - disappeared during the two most recent games.
"We just went away from the things we were doing when we were winning," Warner said. "More people were just catching the ball and shooting and not running the offense. I personally did it myself. We just have to get back to running the offense. That's how we won the games."
The key factor when the Lions have success is running an efficient offense. When they've done it correctly, they've remained calm, made crisp passes and pounded the ball in to Slater and Kern in the post. They've found Warner for open looks from the perimeter and Wagner and Mohan have found open lanes to slash to the basket.
When the offense has struggled - as it did during the four-game losing streak and in Friday's loss to Basehor - the Lions have reverted to, as Slater called it, "playing me-ball." Players forced passes and shots and tried to go one-on-one with the defenders too much.
"The two Tongie games we executed better on the offensive end of the floor," Allen said, citing Lansing's back-to-back victories on rival Tonganoxie's home court last week as examples of the Lions playing better ball.
As for two bright spots, Warner appears to be finding his touch from outside after sinking three of four three-point attempts against the Bobcats, and sophomore Jeff Jackson continues to show progress as the Lions' only bench player to see major playing time.
"He's still a sophomore," Allen said, noting that although Jackson has done some nice work and is their best option off the bench, he still has plenty to learn.
Warner hinted that Lansing's frequent struggles could be attributed to overconfidence. The members of the junior class grew accustomed to dominating their opponents in middle school and freshman ball, so once they strung three wins together, Warner said, they may have become too cocky. Especially considering they'd already defeated Basehor this season.
"I'm used to those blowouts in middle school," Warner said, referring to Lansing's string of close games. "I think we came in here thinking we'd won three straight. We can just walk into the gym, show up and we'll win. Obviously, they thought differently."
Allen said any cockiness his squad may have needs to be eliminated immediately. He wants his team to play confident basketball, but more importantly he wants it to play smart basketball. That means not taking any foe for granted.
"We shouldn't be looking past anybody or looking at anybody as a win," Allen said. "We ought to be taking one game at a time and playing the best we possibly can to compete. For us to have any other ideas is not a good deal."
The Lions next play at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Mill Valley.