LHS boys, girls use strong second halves to beat Bonner
The Lansing High boys basketball team has played must-win games for the last month, but none were more important than Thursday night's 56-54 come-from-behind victory against Bonner Springs at Johnsmeyer Gymnasium.
The Lions entered the game needing a victory to secure the No. 5-seed in next week's Class 5A substate tournament. A loss would've sent them into a coin-toss tie-breaker with Paola in Paola beat Gardner Friday night. If Lansing fell to the No. 6-seed, players admitted that could have spelled certain doom against Topeka Seaman or Highland Park because both games presented so many mismatches. As the No. 5-seed, however, Lansing will play Gardner, a team that LHS will match up nicely against. The winner of Lansing-Gardner likely will face Mill Valley in the substate finals.
"Mill Valley's not 18-1, 19-1 for no reason. Gardner's not 12-5 or 14-5, whatever they are, (for no reason)," LHS coach Don Allen said. "Confidence-wise, does (avoiding Seaman and Highland Park) make a difference to us? Yes, I think it does. But the bottom line is we're still going to be playing one, hopefully two very good basketball teams. We're going to have our work cut out for us regardless, but I think in the back of our minds there's a little different feeling. And that's not to take anything away from Gardner or Mill Valley. We're going to have to play one, hopefully two, very good basketball teams."
The more favorable match-up only is possible, though, because LHS seniors Cody Mohan and David Kern came to the rescue during the final 16 minutes.
Lansing (11-9 overall, 8-5 Kaw Valley League) slogged through the first two quarters without ever developing a rhythm on offense. Shots were forced, passes weren't crisp and the Lions didn't box out well, either. Still, they got a few timely jumpers from Mohan and caught a few breaks that allowed them to hang within 28-24 at halftime. That in itself was a miracle, LHS coach Don Allen said, given the Lions' lack of intensity in the first 16 minutes.
Allen also said he was pleased that his players recognized they hadn't been playing hard enough and intended to change things.
"We knew in the locker room as bad as we'd played in the first half, it was only four or five points," Allen said. "You're never sure what the other guy's thinking, but we KNEW we didn't play well. We intended on coming out and playing better."
That's exactly what the Lions did. Mohan came out and knocked down a pull-up jumper on the first possession. That got the Lions rolling. Jeff Slater scored on a leaner the next time down the court to tie the game. Then Kern gave the Lions a 30-28 lead on a layup. That forced the Braves to call a timeout.
Lansing also elevated its defense. Mohan locked down Bonner sharpshooter Jeff Hills and held him scoreless in the quarter. That forced the Braves to look for other options. Two ties and four lead-changes followed until the third quarter ended with the score knotted at 38-38.
"Cody hit some big shots, made some steals : I think it led from him," Allen said of the momentum swing. "I think he came out and made some things happen early, and everybody else kind of said, 'All right, it's time to go.' I think they kind of fed off Cody tonight. He got us going."
Once Mohan sparked the Lions, Kern did the rest as he scored 11 points in the fourth quarter. He pulled up for back-to-back jumpers at the start of the fourth quarter that gave them a 42-38 lead. The Braves answered with back-to-back three-pointers from Josh Palcher and Matt Caquelin. Then Caquelin pulled up for a jumper that gave the Braves a 46-42 lead.
Just as the momentum began to shift back to Bonner, Lansing senior Austin Reynolds turned in one of the biggest plays of the game. He grabbed a rebound off a missed shot by Slater and put it back in. Reynolds' bucket allowed the Lions to regroup and prepare for their final charge.
"Austin Reynolds was fantastic tonight," Allen said. "He came in, D'd up on their big guy (Nick White) and did a good job for us."
Kern knocked down back-to-back buckets and then sank a pair of free throws that put Lansing on top, 52-51. On Bonner's ensuing inbounds pass, Chris Wagner batted the ball off a Bonner player and out of bounds. Lansing's Matt Warner then was fouled and sank both free throws.
After two missed shots, White swished a pair of free throws to pull the Braves within 54-53, but Mohan and Kern each added a free throw to seal the victory.
The win locked Lansing into a tie with Bonner for third place in the Kaw Valley League. That was a major achievement for LHS considering it started the season 3-7 before winning eight of its last 10 games.
"A month-and-a-half a go we were in the bottom of the barrel," Allen said of the league standings. "These guys wanted to get up there."
Kern led all scorers with 17 points to go with six rebounds. Slater scored 15 points, Mohan had 11, Warner scored eight, Stephen Didde had three and Reynolds added two. Anthony Brown led Bonner with 12 points and Caquelin added 10. Hills scored nine.
LANSING GIRLS 53, BONNER SPRINGS 45
The first time the Lansing High girls and Bonner Springs girls squared off on the basketball court this season, Lansing rolled to a 63-41 victory.
Round two didn't resemble that game at all, but LHS coach Keith Andrews didn't care. He still liked the end result.
Lansing 53, Bonner 45.
"Barely," Andrews said of his squad's ability to squeak past an aggressive, amped-up Bonner team that had won five in a row prior to Thursday's contest. "Two different halves, really."
Lansing's effort in the first 16 minutes and last 16 minutes were polar opposites. The Lions played hard during both halves, but they didn't play smart during the first two quarters. Time after time they made sloppy passes. Time after time they didn't get good position for rebounds and gave up put-backs to the Bravettes' Christina Delladio.
After 16 sluggish minutes, Lansing trailed 26-16.
"We needed to get tough, get those rebounds," senior Nichole Twitchel said of what went wrong during the first half. "We were really rushed. We just needed to slow down."
The Lions (14-6 overall, 10-3 Kaw Valley League) were more patient and more aggressive during the second half. They also dropped out of their press and played a half-court defense to prevent the Bravettes from scoring more fast-break points.
The changes worked.
The Lions quickly whittled away at their 10-point deficit in the third quarter. Twitchel and senior forward Amanda Radovich each sank a pair of free throws during the opening minute to pull within six. A put-back by Delladio gave the Bravettes the lead back, but then came the game-changing stretch for the Lions.
Sophomore point guard Katie Nietzke missed a three-point try, but unlike what happened in the first half, she followed her shot. She grabbed the rebound, pulled up and swished a 12-footer to cut the deficit back to six. The next time down the court Twitchel swung the ball to senior Amanda Darrow on the wing. Darrow drained a three-pointer to pull Lansing within 28-25. Suddenly the Lions were rolling.
Two minutes later, Darrow drilled another trey and tied the game at 32-32. Basehor's Sarah Reyes answered with a jumper, but LHS came right back and got a big bucket inside from sophomore Christine Cordes. Again, BSHS responded. This time it was Felisha Leipard who sank two free throws. But Lansing came right back with a baseline jumper from Twitchel to tie the game again.
Bonner took a 38-36 lead into the fourth quarter thanks to a put-back from Taryn Lane, but the lead didn't last long. Twitchel buried a three-pointer at the 6:37 mark of the fourth quarter that gave LHS a 39-38 lead. It was the first of three straight buckets by Twitchel that helped the Lions maintain a small lead.
"We picked each up in the second half," Twitchel said of the difference in the two halves. "They were doing a pretty good job covering Radovich, so I was just sitting there and I just finally had to shoot."
Twitchel helped the Lions stay above water, but her teammates clearly fed off her confidence. After Twitchel gave them the lead, sophomore Amanda Darrow buried an 18-footer with 2:15 left that pushed the lead to 47-44. The Bravettes would not get any closer.
Twitchel sank all four of her free throws in the final minute and freshman Brittney Lang added a pair from the stripe to seal the victory.
"Nichole Twitchel was huge," Andrews said. "I think she's 18 of 20 on free throws the last game and a half. But most importantly, she made the shots to get us there. The three-pointer she buries : two or three jumpers there in the fourth quarter are huge. And then wanting the ball and fighting on defense, too."
Twitchel led Lansing with a game-high 19 points. Radovich scored 14 and Rachel Darrow had 12. Nietzke, Amanda Darrow, Lang and Cordes scored two apiece. Delladio led Bonner with 18 points.
Although Twitchel sparked the Lions on offense, it was their defense that ultimately allowed the comeback to happen. Twitchel, Nietzke and the Darrows locked up the Bravettes' top two outside threats all night and forced Delladio to carry the load inside.
"We had a goal to hold (Kelsey) Stanbrough under 10 or 12, and she gets six. The other one, (Hilary) Johnson, we didn't want her to have any threes and she didn't get any three's. Those two goals were big," Andrews said.
The biggest thing about Thursday's victory was that it gave Lansing second place in the Kaw Valley League. LHS and Bonner had been tied for second in the league with Santa Fe Trail entering Thursday's game. If Santa Fe loses Friday then Lansing will be all alone in second place.
Lansing now turns its focus to the Class 5A substate tournament. LHS is the No. 3-seed and will play host to No. 6 Mill Valley next week. The winner of that game will then play the winner of Shawnee Heights and Highland Park for a trip to state.
Twitchel said she and her teammates are excited to play in substate and hope to make a run at the state tournament. Beating Mill Valley would be a good start because Lansing hasn't won a substate game since seniors Radovich, Twitchel and Rachel Darrow have been at LHS.
"I really just want to go out there and play the best ball that we can and have no regrets," Twitchel said. "A win, the first one would definitely be really exciting because we haven't done that in the four years I've been here."