LHS boys fall at Gardner in sub-state opener
Gardner The Lansing High boys' basketball team didn't need to play a perfect game to beat Gardner-Edgerton on Thursday night.
The Lions simply needed G-E senior sharpshooter Ryan Highfill to miss a few shots.
Unfortunately for LHS, Highfill maintained a scorching pace throughout the game and single-handedly ended Lansing's season. Highfill scored 35 points on 11-for-14 shooting - most while closely guarded and with a hand in his face - as Gardner escaped, 58-46, in the opening round of sub-state.
"The kid can shoot. We knew he could shoot," LHS coach Don Allen said. "For the most part we did everything we could do on him. I thought Cody (Mohan) and Chris (Wagner) did the best that they could do. There was a time or two where we probably could have been closer to him, but the kid hit some shots that were just great basketball shots.
"We've got a guy on him, got a guy in the face, he's falling backwards just to get it off. There's nothing else that I can ask those guys to do defensively."
Despite the loss it was without question Lansing's best performance of the season. The Lions sank 20 of 35 shots, made smart decisions for the most part, ran a patient offense and played solid defense.
"Tonight I was real proud of the intensity and the effort," Allen said. "I thought we were extremely focused for most of the ball game."
LHS (7-14) played nearly flawless basketball for the better part of three quarters, except for a stretch during the second quarter when the Lions turned the ball over eight times. If not for those brief stumbles, they might have pulled off the upset.
Lansing sent a message during the first quarter that it wasn't going to bow down to heavily favored Gardner (17-4) despite playing on the Blazers' home court. The Lions sank six of their seven field goal attempts in the opening period and led 13-7 after the first eight minutes. At that point they were receiving contributions from all over as Jeff Slater had seven points, Matt Warner had four and David Kern had two.
Things turned sour in the second quarter, however, as the Lions were outscored 22-10 despite hitting four of their eight field goal tries. The problem was eight LHS turnovers led to 11 Gardner points.
After scoring five points in the first quarter, Highfill wreaked constant havoc throughout the second period by pouring in 13 points, including three three-pointers. Highfill already had 18 points by halftime as the Blazers led 29-23.
The Lions refused to fold in the second half. They opened the third quarter on a 5-0 run that trimmed the deficit to 29-28, but Gardner responded with an 8-0 run in the next minute that was capped by a Highfill three-pointer. He buried two more treys in the quarter - the third of which gave the Blazers a 15-point lead with two minutes left in the quarter.
Gardner's 11-point lead heading into the fourth quarter was trimmed to 46-42 with 3:10 remaining as Lansing opened the final period with a 9-2 run that was sparked by seven points from Slater.
On Lansing's next possession, the Lions turned the ball over when Kern's pass to Slater sailed out of bounds as Slater was knocked to the floor on a questionable no-call. At the other end Gardner's Kyle Newhouse scored and was fouled. He hit the ensuing free throw, and Highfill drained his eighth three-pointer of the game on the next possession. Within seconds a four-point Gardner lead had ballooned to 52-42. After that the outcome was never in question.
"I'm just pleased with the effort and the focus that they put into it tonight," Allen said. "Eventually it came down to them just having more bodies and being quicker at the end of the ball game despite whatever the Highfill kid shot."
Highfill sank eight of 10 three-point attempts along the way to his game-high 35 points. No other Blazer scored more than six points. Slater led Lansing with 22 points, Chris Wagner had 10, Kern scored eight, and Warner chipped in six points.
LHS played without sophomore sixth-man Jeff Jackson who was out of town for his grandmother's funeral.
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