Road to state

Lions have lots to cheer for this week as girls’ and boys’ basketball teams head to state


By Gary Schmidt, Sports Editor

Senior Jackson Mallory stood like a statue, still processing the moment before him. A final win, in his final game at home, and a third and final shot at the state championship he has chased since joining the varsity team in his sophomore year.

This time, however, it was a different story for Mallory.

It wasn’t current Colorado State guard, Anthony Bonner’s team. He wasn’t just a role player.
It wasn’t current Toledo star, Justin Robert’s team. He wasn’t just a lockdown defender.
This time, it was Mallory’s team.

And this time, there was no next year.

“It [being my final trip] just changes the perspective for me and my team,” Mallory said. “I know that my high school career is one week away from being over so I know I have to give everything I have every time I step on the court.”

Mallory leads the Lions into the Kansas 6A state tournament this week, starting today at 3 p.m. against Manhattan High School.

In his senior year, Mallory along with fellow seniors Kobe Buffalomeat, Braden Solko and Austin Miller, have lead the team to a 15-7 record and the No. 7 seed in the state tournament.

The team has had many ups and downs, from a 7-1 start to a rough 1-3 span heading into the week of the Free State game. From there, the Lions have turned it on offensively, scoring an average of 66 points in their last three games against Free State and their two substate opponents, Shawnee Mission Northwest and Shawnee Mission East.

In the first round, the Lions will face off against second-seeded Manhattan High School. Coming in at 18-4, Manhattan was the Centennial League champion and posted impressive wins in its substate, defeating Junction City and Washburn Rural.

If the Lions win this first round, they will advance to the semifinals on Friday night against the winner of Blue Valley North vs. Olathe Northwest. From there, the winner of the match will go to the state championship and the loser will play in the consolation final for third place.

“This group of guys is hungry,” Solko said. “We’ve all sat back and watched those amazing teams [of the past two years] and helped when we could but now we know that it is our time and it motivates us to prove the doubters wrong.”

A mere day after the boys team clinched its trip to Wichita, the girls followed suit, clinching their trip to the state tournament and ending a nine year drought. The girls team has not been to state since they last won the title in 2008.

Carrying a chip on their shoulders from an early playoff exit, forced in part due to untimely injuries, a year ago, the girls made no question in their substate games, winning both games by a convincing double-digit margin.

Carrying momentum in each consecutive year, four-year starter, Skylar Drum is proud of the program being able to build so strongly so quickly.

“When I was a freshman, I would not have believed that the program would turn around as fast as it has,” Drum said. “Going to the state tournament, let alone winning it seemed like a far off dream but now with the steps that have been taken, that dream has been turned to a reality.”

Their dominant play earned the girls the No. 6 seed in the state tournament, and a first round match against third seeded Olathe South, tomorrow at 4:45 p.m.

The teams come into the game with identical records of 18-4, but tiebreakers dropped the Lions to the lower seeding.

This will be a rematch of an earlier matchup between the schools, in which LHS was defeated, 54-38. A poor first quarter saw the Lions dig themselves into a hole they could never manage to claw out of, and despite cutting the lead on numerous occasions, suffered the crushing loss.

Sophomore point guard Hannah Stewart is confident that given another chance, the team can hang with the Falcons for a whole 32-minute game.

“I think we will be able to overcome [our previous loss to Olathe South] by coming together and playing hard as a team the entire time,” Stewart said. “There will be times when we hit adversity, and that is when we really need to come together and be mentally tough.”

With a win over Olathe South, the Lions move on to the semifinals to face the winner of the matchup against Olathe Northwest and Manhattan. The winner of that semifinal advances to the title game, while the loser heads to the third-place game.

Drum describes the feeling of heading to Koch Arena in Wichita for both teams as euphoric, but also acknowledges the ultimate goal for both teams as one: bringing a state title back to Lawrence High.
“It is a great feeling to be able to finally get to get the chance to play in the state tournament,” Drum said. “What would make it even better is to make it to the championship game and bring back the trophy.”