PHOTOS: Lions shake Allen Field House 61-57

For the first time in the 20-year rivalry between Free State and Lawrence High, the two schools squared off in the prestigious Allen Field House.

The Lions lived up to the grandiose stage, sweeping the Firebirds on the night, with the girls victorious 47-42, and the boys winning by a margin of 61-57.

In the girls game, the Firebirds came out hot, hitting shots from everywhere on the floor. The Lions were playing into their game, turning the ball over frequently and giving the Free State easy buckets in transition. Competing in the packed gym played into the Lions’ heads and they allowed Free State to pull away heading into halftime with a comfortable 25-19 lead.

Determined to get back into the game, the Lions came out of halftime with a newfound defensive intensity, holding the Firebirds to three points in the third quarter. The Lions stormed back from their deficit, carried by junior E’lease Stafford, who torched the Firebirds inside but also capitalized when they began to give her space, knocking down several jumpers. Stafford finished the night with a game high 21 points.

The Lions came all the way back, and off junior Talima Harjo’s three late in the third took a lead they would not relinquish. The team continued to assert themselves inside, where they had a noticeable size advantage, to which sophomore Chisom Ajekwu took advantage, scoring 15 points.

Late into the fourth, the Firebirds began to march back into the game once again, but firm defense in the closing minutes closed the game out for the Lady Lions, who moved on to 5-0 on the season.

The boys continued the success of the girls, but not without their own fair share of drama.

The Lions led the Firebirds for the majority of the contest, sharing the scoring across the board, but could not find a way to shut Free State down. That is, until the beginning of the second half as the Lions, led by senior Jackson Mallory and sophomore Clarence King went on a run, nursing a narrow advantage into a definite 21-point lead.

In this span, Mallory, who finished the night with a game-high 16 points, and King, who ended with 14, used their athleticism to get to the rim and draw fouls, and sometimes score on those, such as when King flipped the ball over his head as he was tackled down, completing the and-one.

Throughout the night, the gym, filled with a giant student section from both schools and numerous fans from the community, was loud and only got louder as the game turned down the stretch. This noise and the lead got to the Lions as their composure late faltered. All of a sudden, a 21-point advantage turned to a single digit one, and at one point a single possession game.

Head coach Mike Lewis called a timeout with one intention: calm his team down and remind them what got them that lead.

In the closing minutes, the Lions were successful at the free throw line, led by Mallory who knocked down seven of his eight free throws.

“It felt amazing to go into an arena like that and beating your rival like that is amazing,”Mallory said. “We just played as a team and we all did our role and came out with a nice team win.”

Both teams return to action after the Winter Break, hosting Leavenworth in a double header on Jan 3.