Strong finish at Bonner important for boys basketball
Seven wins and 12 losses isn't exactly the record the Lansing High boys' basketball team wanted to have at this point in the season, but the Lions know that record is a bit deceiving considering the quality of basketball they've played during the past three weeks.
After venturing through a stretch of games where the Lions lost winnable games against Pleasant Ridge, Basehor-Linwood and Perry-Lecompton by six or fewer points, coach Don Allen said his squad finally was playing smarter and, in the process, giving itself a chance to win games.
"We haven't won as many as we want to, but we're not giving them away either," Allen said. "There's a big difference between getting beat and giving the basketball game away, and I think there was a stretch there where we just gave games away. But I'm happy with they way (they're responding).
"Your confidence gets hit a little bit when you start questioning things and you just struggle a bit. But they kept working and we've given ourselves a chance to win these ballgames down the stretch."
To give themselves a chance to win, the Lions were forced to make some changes.
"Early in the season we were set on running because that's all we've been doing in the past. That's all we've ever done," junior forward David Kern said.
Lansing changed its offensive strategy after that dismal stretch and opted to ditch the up-tempo run-and-gun offense for a slow, disciplined offense revolving around lots of passing and patience. The change allowed the Lions to take top-ranked Immaculata to double-overtime, Bishop Ward to overtime and Turner to the wire. All three were losses, however.
LHS finally tasted victory Tuesday night as it slogged through another close game with Santa Fe Trail. Chris Wagner poured in 17 points from the perimeter while Kern dumped in 17 in the post. Trail had a size advantage, but Lansing's pace of play took the Chargers out of their game.
The victory was much needed, especially with sub-state play looming next week. It's likely the Lions will face defending state champion Topeka Highland Park or Topeka West, last year's third-place team in Class 5A, so the Lions said they needed a win before then to build some momentum.
"It's a big confidence booster," Kern said of the win. "The last couple games we've dropped have been close. It just kind of hurt our self-esteem. Finally winning one feels good."
The Lions will close out the regular season at 7:30 p.m. tonight at Bonner Springs. The Braves (13-6) have been on a hot streak since defeating LHS, 67-56, on Jan. 14, but they'll run into a Lansing team that also is playing its best basketball of the season.
"We played them the second or third game after Christmas, and during that stretch we couldn't do anything," Wagner said. "We had a ton of turnovers against them, but we've handled pressure a little bit better lately with the guards and our posts are really playing good."
Allen said he likes his squad's chances against Bonner as long as LHS knocks down open shots and force the game to be played at its pace. Regardless, Allen said he wants to see the Lions continue to play smart basketball and make progress.
"We've been making better decisions the last three, four, five ballgames," Allen said. "We're just doing a better job making decisions and understanding what we need to do. There was a stretch there where we got lazy about things and didn't do a very good job taking care of the basketball, didn't do a very good job defensively. And lately we haven't won as many as we'd like to, but I'm happy with the way we're responding to things at this point in the year."