Archive for Saturday, February 3, 2007

Pair of threes

Lansing boys fall by three; girls settle for three-pointers in poor offensive performance

February 3, 2007

Kevin Johnson played his best game as a Lansing High Lion Friday night when he turned in an 11-point, six-rebound effort, but the junior forward was whistled for traveling on a drive to the basket with two seconds left and his team down one.

Johnson appeared to have been fouled from behind on the play, but instead Lansing was forced to foul, and Basehor-Linwood's Austin Knipp sank two free throws to ice the game, 44-41.

Despite coming up just short in a bid to put the first blemish on Basehor's 8-0 Kaw Valley League record, Lansing coach Rod Briggs praised his team.

"We don't want moral victories, but we're competing," the first-year coach said. "We've got to keep this all in perspective. It's all about getting better each and every game. I thought that we took some steps backward in the first half and we made some steps forward in the second half, and we overcame adversity and we were resilient again tonight and we never quit.

"We made it where we're down one with the ball late in the game, and we've been there before, it just didn't turn out this time. That's going to happen when you put yourself in that situation. Sometimes it's going to work out. Sometimes it won't."

Despite his squad's 5-9 record (2-5 Kaw Valley League), Briggs continues to remind people to see the big picture. The Lions' roster includes just two players who'd ever played varsity basketball before this season. The starting backcourt is two sophomores who play almost the entire game. Jeff Jackson is the squad's lone senior.

The Lions started by taking baby steps during an 0-6 start, but now they're taking some of the top teams in the state to the wire. They've won five of their last eight games, but the three defeats during that span were to No. 5 Atchison, No. 2 Piper and league-leader Basehor. The record doesn't scream progress, but the proof is in the play. All three of those losses were by single digits with LHS in position to win.

Briggs said those close losses, while not satisfying, boil down to how hard his team plays. He lauded his squad Friday night for its toughness against Basehor.

"Effort was extremely good on everybody," he said. "Nobody was not playing hard, and that's what you want. We don't come out there and not play hard or sleepwalk through games right now, and that's the biggest fear you have. You never know coming into a game what to expect, so I'll always kind of be fearful of that, but they're really showing me every game that we're going to play as hard as we can and do the best we can. We made some mistakes, but overall we played as hard as we could."

Hard play allowed LHS to battle Basehor shot-for-shot during the first quarter and stay within 10-9. The Bobcats opened up a five-point lead midway through the second quarter, but the Lions answered quickly with a put-back by Johnson and a layup by Jackson to pull within a point. The Bobcats eventually took a 22-18 lead into halftime.

LHS turned the ball over on its first two possessions of the third quarter and fell behind by seven, but it answered with a layup from Jackson and a three-pointer and 12-footer by Clayton Hall to tie the game at 25-all. Basehor scored the next two baskets, but three unanswered points by Johnson trimmed the deficit to 29-28 entering the fourth quarter.

Lansing was whistled for two technical fouls in the fourth quarter - one on Briggs for arguing a foul call and another when a player touched the backboard while trying to block a shot - but that wasn't enough to make the Lions fold. Instead they dug out of a five-point hole to pull within one on backets by Will Johnson and Kevin Johnson. The Bobcats regained a 42-38 lead, but a three-pointer by Hall from the top of the key with 42 seconds left made it a one-point game and set up the wild finish.

As big as some of the Lions' shots were in the fourth quarter, none were bigger than the free throws Knipp shot for the Bobcats. The senior went 11-for-12 from the stripe during the final period to help seal the victory.

Knipp led all scorers with 19 points. Hall led Lansing with 14 points, Johnson had 11 and Jackson scored five.

Lansing next plays at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Bishop Ward.


Could it be that the Lansing High girls basketball team's obsession with the three-point shot is the cause - not the solution - to its scoring problems this season?

There's no way to be certain, but given Lansing's five-for-24 performance beyond the arc in a 51-41 home loss to Basehor-Linwood on Friday night, it's worth considering. After all, LHS shot just 10 three's and made three of them Jan. 26 in a 52-48 victory at Bonner Springs. Lansing then shot 15 treys and sank six of them Tuesday in a 48-41 home win over Piper.

So could it be that the more threes the Lions shoot, the more they struggle, especially considering they shot 20-plus treys per game during a 1-6 start to the season?

Third-year coach Keith Andrews isn't buying that theory completely. Instead, he said it's not the number of three-point attempts that matters. It's the quality of shot that is the big deal.

"The threes in the first half weren't necessarily bad shots, but (they weren't) necessarily the best shot," he said. "I'm not real concerned about the 24 because we fired some up there at the end. But you've got to have confidence in your shot, you've got to follow your shot and you've got to know that there are going to be nights when you're not going to shoot the ball very well and you've got to do something else, whether it be get to the foul line, whether it be drive and kick, whether it be just saying 'I'm going to pass up this shot and run a little offense and get something better.'"

The threes were huge for the Lions early. They came out firing on all cylinders. Amanda Darrow drained a 17-footer and Katie Nietzke buried back-to-back three-pointers during a game-opening 8-1 run in the first two minutes.

The two early threes looked like a good sign, but instead of using those to open up the offense, the Lions began settling for them as the first option. They missed their last four treys of the quarter and their last 10 total shots. Meanwhile, the Bobcats ended the quarter on a 14-0 run. The Lions' early lead would be their last.

Forcing threes wasn't Lansing's only problem during its cold stretch, however. It had chances to score inside where it simply didn't convert. It was called for traveling back-to-back times on wide-open looks from within five feet. It also missed two point-blank layups after offensive rebounds.

"We gave up four good looks inside in the first half," Andrews said. "We had a miss, we had a travel, we had a missed shot, we rushed one. And at the same time we gave up two when three of us were in man (defense) and two of us were in zone and we gave up a wide-open layup. There's your 10-point spread)."

Brittney Lang swished a three-pointer and Christine Cordes scored on a lay-in early in the second quarter to pull Lansing within 15-13, but Basehor extended its lead to eight points while LHS missed its next three shots - two of them three-point tries and the fourth a miss from close range.

Down 21-13, Lansing climbed back into the game thanks to its inside game. Darrow scored on a put-back and Cordes added a three-point play and an extra free throw. That pulled LHS within 23-19 by halftime.

Basehor wasted no time extending its lead to double-digits in the third quarter. Cassie Lombardino scored four straight points and Brooke Sanders banked in a shot during a 6-0 run that made it 29-19. Lansing again turned its focus inside, and again it made a comeback. Cordes scored on a turnaround jumper in the lane, Nietzke was fouled on a drive to the basket and sank two free throws, Alexis Ellis made a layup and Cordes scored on a put-back. Darrow then knocked down a jumper to that brought LHS within 35-29 entering the fourth quarter.

Lansing (6-8, 2-5) turned the ball over on its first two possessions of the final quarter. In the meantime Basehor extended its lead to nine. Layups by Lang and Amy Briggs and an Ellis free throw cut the deficit to 38-34 with 4:03 left, but the Lions would get no closer. They sent the Bobcats to the free throw line four times down the stretch and never recovered. The Lions fired eight three-point tries during the final four minutes and made just two. They also had six shots from point-blank range that they failed to convert.

Andrews credited his team with playing aggressively, but he said they didn't play smart.

"My biggest complaint is the kids play hard, but it's not mentally coming in ready to play," he said.

Some of that could have been the fact that LHS rescheduled its Winter Royalty dance for Thursday night, so players were up late and tired. Andrews said the greater problem was that they'd had a poor week of practice and were unprepared to play. Lansing had a brief stretch like this last year, and Andrews hopes it's a one-time issue this season.

"We've got six games left and we've got to decide if we want to come in and play hard and practice hard and work as a team, or if we want to come in and just go through the motions," he said. "Tonight for the most part we just went through the motions. And we're not good enough to come in and turn on the switch and be a good team. Collectively we've got to play defense, and there's nights when you're not going to shoot the ball but you've got to play defense, you've got to make things happen at the other end and we didn't get that much tonight."

Nieetzke led Lansing in scoring with 15 points, Cordes had 10, Darrow had six, Lang had five, Ellis scored four and Amy Briggs chipped in two.

Lansing next plays at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at home against Bishop Ward. Andrews said he hopes his team will be more focused for that game.

"Ward beat us last year because we did the exact same thing," Andrews said. "We thought we were supposed to win. We were supposed to win, but we didn't. We let that happen. That's and individual challenge and a team challenge for us, and we've got to respond."


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