Focus is key for Lions vs. Jags
For students at Lansing High, Winter Royalty week is one extended party with two days off of school and a Saturday night dance.
For LHS girls basketball coach Keith Andrews, however, it is cause for concern. Like most coaches, Andrews doesn't like it when his squad doesn't have school on the day is has a game. Simply put, it changes the routine and allows room for extra distractions to take players' minds off the game.
So Andrews is a little nervous entering Lansing's 6 p.m. Friday contest against Mill Valley at Johnsmeyer Gymnasium.
But he has a solution.
"We're going to have a one-hour practice Friday morning to make sure they get up and get in a routine," he said. "We're going to come in and go hard for about an hour and then go out to breakfast."
And one more thing :
"They'll have the rest of the afternoon to themselves," Andrews said, "but we'll tell them not to go back to bed."
The Lions (9-4 overall, 6-1 Kaw Valley League) have too much at stake Friday to be caught snoozing. They are in second place in the league, just one game behind first-place Tonganoxie. Plus, they are receiving votes in the state rankings for the second week in a row and they're fighting for a higher seed in the Class 5A substate tournament (they're currently third).
If Lansing allows itself to be distracted on Friday, the results could be catastrophic. That was the case on Jan. 16 when the team had the day off from school before being thumped by Silver Lake, 52-34.
Fortunately for LHS, it knows it can't take Mill Valley lightly. The Lions needed career-high efforts from senior forward Amanda Radovich (30 points) and sophomore guard Katie Nietzke (17 points) to beat the Jaguars in overtime, 67-62, on Dec. 16. Since then, the Jags have been tough to beat.
"Mill Valley is going to be tougher coming in here," Andrews said. "They're playing a little better, but we've still got to get on them and get after it."
A strong all-around performance would be a welcome sight for the Lions. They haven't clicked on all cylinders since hammering Bonner Springs, 63-41, on Jan. 13. They've been getting closer during each of their last four games - all victories - but they haven't quite put it all together yet.
"They all want to get back to where we were at that Bonner game," Andrews said. "We're not quite there yet, but we're getting there. Our ability to focus as a group is getting better, but we've still got work to do. The main thing is we've got to make sure we come out focused."
Lansing came close to matching its intensity level of the Bonner game when it played Basehor on Friday. LHS found itself on the ropes before toughening up in the final minutes for a 63-60 victory. Then, after a slow start Tuesday at Perry-Lecompton, Lansing again turned it up a notch and won, 59-40.
Andrews said each of those games were steps forward. Now he wants to see the Lions put together another complete performance and continue climbing the league standings.
"Last Friday and (the Perry game) were vital for us to keep doing what we want to do," he said. "The best thing going for us is that we're still one game behind Tongie. That gives us direction and focus."
KVL RACE IS ON
Tonganoxie remains perfect in the KVL with its 7-0 record, but Lansing and Santa Fe Trail remain in the hunt at 6-1. At 5-3, Bonner Springs also remains in striking distance.
SUBSTATE TAKES SHAPE
Lansing begins play in its Class 5A substate tournament in four weeks. Already the brackets are beginning to take shape. Here is a look at how the teams in the bracket are doing as of now: Paola (12-2); Shawnee Heights (11-2); Lansing (9-4); Topeka Seaman (7-7); Gardner-Edgerton (7-7); Mill Valley (6-7); Highland Park (4-9); Topeka West (2-10).