Archive for Thursday, March 2, 2006

Lions end season with loss to Blazers

March 2, 2006

— The Lansing High boys spent the past six weeks making as much noise as anybody in the Kaw Valley League.

Wednesday night in the Class 5A substate basketball opener at Gardner-Edgerton Fieldhouse, the Lions went out with a whimper.

Lansing turned the ball over 11 times in the first half, fell behind by 18 points in the third quarter and never mounted much of a comeback in the fourth quarter.

Gardner 77, Lansing 53.

"We just didn't take care of the basketball like we needed to, and that's the bottom line," LHS coach Don Allen said.

The Lions were solid defensively in the first three minutes as they held the Trailblazers scoreless and took a 4-0 lead. Trouble already was brewing, however, because the Lions turned the ball over four times during that span. The fourth turnover was taken the other way and ultimately led to a three-point basket by Connor Bechard.

Once Bechard's shot tickled the twine, the Blazers rarely missed the rest of the night. They sank six of their next 11 shots and took an 18-15 lead after the first quarter. Bechard had 11 points in the quarter, and the Lions only kept things close because they made six of their first nine shots.

Gardner (15-6) continued its scorching pace in the second quarter as it sank four of its first five shots, but a jumper by Matt Warner and a three-pointer by Chris Wagner allowed Lansing to hang around a little longer.

As hard as the Lions tried to keep pace, they weren't able to. The Blazers extended their lead to 34-25 by halftime.

The deficit itself didn't doom the Lions. Neither did Bechard's hot hand. After all, they weathered former Blazer Ryan Highfill's 35-point fireworks display last year and kept things close.

Lansing High senior David Kern looks for room to operate under the basket during the first half against Gardner.

Lansing High senior David Kern looks for room to operate under the basket during the first half against Gardner.

The difference this time around was that instead of having just one shooter, the Blazers had a whole squad of shooters. Eight different players scored during the first 16 minutes. That type of quality depth was too much for the Lions to handle.

"Trade out one shooter for a handful of shooters. That's the biggest problem," Allen said. "We knew coming in last year we had to guard one. But he's got six or seven now that aren't shy of shooting. It seemed like they were raining it in from everywhere in the first half."

Despite the nine-point deficit, Allen said he thought his squad would respond well in the third quarter and make a strong push. After all, Lansing had been a second-half team all season and had erased larger deficits on multiple occasions.

The resiliency Allen had grown accustomed to seeing never showed its face during the second half Wednesday. Instead, Allen said he thought his squad panicked. LHS turned the ball over on three of its first five possessions. Meanwhile, Gardner went on a 7-1 run and pushed its lead to 41-26 as Bechard buried his fourth three-pointer of the game.

"Even at half, we had chances," Allen said. "Even at nine points, we come out and turn the ball over four or five straight times to start the third quarter. We just got into force mode a little bit early. When you don't take care of the basketball, nothing good's going to happen."

Lansing continued to turn the ball over and Gardner continued to score. The Blazers extended their lead to 50-32 by the end of the third quarter.

Lansing High senior Javen Kelly tries to steal the ball from a Gardner player late in the fourth quarter Wednesday night.

Lansing High senior Javen Kelly tries to steal the ball from a Gardner player late in the fourth quarter Wednesday night.

"We just shot ourselves in the foot the start of the third quarter," Allen said. "I don't know what the deal was, but mentally we just kind of lost focus. That's something we haven't seen for quite a few ball games out of these guys."

The fourth quarter wasn't any prettier. Lansing pulled within 14 at one point but then allowed Gardner to open it back up to a 26-point differential late in the game. Both squads pulled their starters for the final minutes.

The loss ended Lansing's season at 11-10. It marked the final game for seniors Cody Mohan, Jeff Slater, David Kern, Austin Reynolds, Javen Kelly, Wagner and Warner.

Slater led all scorers with 18 points, Wagner had 14, Warner scored seven, Mohan had six, Jeff Jackson added four and Kern and Kyle Miller each scored two.

Billy Scott led Gardner with 15 points, seven of them from the free throw line. Bechard added 14 points, Tyrek Artley had 11 and Ben Adams added nine.

Lansing outrebounded Gardner, 26-23, but turned the ball over 22 times. Offensively, the Lions made just 18 of 48 shots while the Blazers went 30-for-53 from the field.

With the victory, Gardner advanced to Friday's substate championship game against the Mill Valley-Shawnee Heights winner.

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