Lansing boys ready for Gardner
Sub-state begins tonight on the road
The Lansing High boys' basketball team may have received the most favorable draw possible in its sub-state bracket, but the Lions are hardly chalking up their 7 p.m. game tonight at Gardner-Edgerton as a victory just yet.
The Lions (7-13) may have avoided playing Topeka West and Highland Park, but LHS coach Don Allen said Gardner can hardly be considered easy.
"For the position we put ourselves in, I guess it's the best side for us," Allen said. "Obviously, if you get a chance, you probably want to stay away from West and Hi-Park, but Gardner : they're an awful good team. At this point in the year, there's not anybody you can say you'd rather play over anybody else."
The primary perk in avoiding the two Topeka schools is the lack of an intimidation factor. Highland Park is the defending state champion, while West is the top-seed in sub-state play and boasts 6-foot-8 Indiana State-signee Jay Tunnell.
Gardner (16-4) has its own star player for Lions to try to contain, however. Senior Ryan Highfill, a 6-foot, 170-pound shooting guard, has averaged 22 points per game this season and has the ability to light up the scoreboard in a hurry.
Highfill scored 27 points against Paola on Friday night, with 12 of them coming on three-pointers in the last two minutes of regulation that helped to force overtime before the Blazers finally fell, 59-56, in overtime.
"He's the real deal," Allen said of Highfill. "He can score outside. He can put the ball on the floor and attack the basket. He's a real good passer. We're going to have to figure out something to try to keep him somewhat contained."
Numerous Gardner opponents have tried to slow Highfill by using a box-and-one defense, but that hasn't always worked out too well because Highfill has numerous teammates who are capable of scoring in bunches. That was the case when Topeka Washburn Rural tried it last month. Matt Duncan stepped up and hit a pair of three-pointers; Kirk Artley knocked down open shots, and John Turpin asserted himself on the offensive end.
It is likely that LHS junior Chris Wagner will draw the assignment of guarding Highfill. Wagner has been the Lions' top defensive player all season and tends to be assigned to opponents' best players. Junior forward David Kern also may spend time guarding Highfill.
Allen said the Lions will have to prevent Gardner from forcing an up-tempo game if they're going to pull off the upset. Lansing has struggled when it has tried to sprint full-court with opponents, and that is exactly the style of play the Blazers prefer.
Allen said Gardner plays a similar style to Mill Valley.
"They're extremely quick and very good at what they do," Allen said. " (GE coach Don) Bechard's been down there for a long time, and he does a good job. He always has.
"They're not going to make a lot of mistakes. To beat 'em you've got to go out and execute well. They're not going to beat themselves. From what I've seen from them and from what I've heard, they don't turn the ball over offensively, and defensively they put a lot of pressure on you. I would expect them to probably full-court press us most of the ball game."