Lions snap three-game skid with 49-43 victory
LHS boys beat Tonganoxie
The photos in this gallery were taken by Lansing High student Griffin Davis.
The Lions of old were back on the basketball court Friday night - for eight minutes at least.
Yes, the Lansing High boys snapped their three-game losing streak against Tonganoxie, but they made the 49-43 victory a lot more difficult than it needed to be.
The Lions (11-6) raced to a 14-1 lead in the first quarter before losing focus, squandering the lead and falling behind before a surge in the final minutes allowed them to pull out the win.
"We were ready to play," LHS coach Rod Briggs said. "We've just got to learn to play 32 minutes."
Lansing was flawless during the first eight minutes. In addition to the early offense - they made six of 12 shots - they also forced five straight turnovers at the end of the quarter. In fact, the Chieftains didn't make a basket until their top player, senior Gabe Belobrajdic, scored on a lay-in at the 6:45 mark of the second quarter.
Belobrajdic did not start or play in the first quarter.
Lansing would have been wise to anticipate the impact Belobrajdic would have on the game. The Lions lost focus after building the early lead, and the Chieftains fed off Belobrajdic's presence by playing a steady game of catch-up.
Keith Wentz-Hall sank three free throws in the second quarter, and Belobrajdic scored on a put-back and a lay-up just before halftime. That whittled Lansing's lead to single digits at 21-12 by intermission.
"I felt like once the other guys got in at the start of the second quarter, they all were still looking at that lead going, 'OK, now I'm going to get me this or that,' and throwing the ball over the place," Briggs said.
The third quarter was all Tonganoxie. The Lions bricked missed layups, bricked six of eight free throws and threw the ball away four times. Meanwhile, the Chieftains used a pair of layups by Tyson Letourneau and a two-handed put-back dunk by Belobrajdic to pull within 30-26 by the end of the quarter.
Jeremy Carlisle swished a 17-foot jumper on Tonganoxie's first possession of the fourth quarter, and then Belobrajdic tied the game at 30-30 with a pair of free throws. Kevin Johnson answered with a three-point play for Lansing, and Bobby Hauver followed with a jump shot that gave LHS a five-point lead.
That margin wasn't safe. THS hung around a bit longer, and then Wentz-Hall buried a three-pointer from the left wing that gave the Chieftains a 41-39 lead with 3:15 to go.
After a Lansing timeout, the Lions inbounded the ball and swung it to Chris Hill at the top of the key. The senior fired, buried it and gave his team a one-point lead with 2:50 left. Curtis Beall sank one of two free throws on Lansing's next possession, and then Hill fed Cody Rush for a layup that sealed the victory.
After the game, Briggs praised Hill for making plays down the stretch.
"Chris Hill's really kind of stepped up and has done a really good job," Briggs said. "He wants to win. He's a team guy, and he's got some leadership qualities. His skill level's getting better as the season's going along, and that's helping him a ton."
Briggs said he was thankful that his team found a way to win. The victory was needed both for morale and for postseason positioning. By picking up their 11th win of the year, the Lions remain in position to claim the No. 2 seed in the Class 5A substate tournament. They could fall anywhere between No. 2 and No. 6 in what has shaped up to be a tight race.
Tonganoxie (5-11) was led in scoring by Belobrajdic with 14 points. Wentz-Hall scored 10, Letourneau had eight, Carlisle had seven, and Austin Smith and Jamie Everett chipped in two apiece.
Rush led Lansing with 14 points, Johnson had nine, Beall scored eight, Hauver had seven, Clayton Hall had four, Hill had three, and P.J. Sigle and Stephen Didde added two apiece.