Boys basketball team improves to ten wins and one loss

Burdened with less practice and constant scheduling inconveniences, the Lions are still aiming for a state championship.

Junior+Pearse+Long+goes+for+a+layup+during+a+home+basketball+game+against+Gardner+Edgerton+on+Thursday+Jan.+28th.

Ben Cohen

Junior Pearse Long goes for a layup during a home basketball game against Gardner Edgerton on Thursday Jan. 28th.

By Ryan Hardie and Cuyler Dunn

Although they have been hindered by the challenges of COVID-19, the Lawrence High School boys basketball team is off to a 10-1 start during the 2021 season, and they are eyeing their seventh consecutive state appearance.

The team started the year with eight straight wins on their way to the number two ranking in the state before losing to the number one team, Blue Valley Northwest. They followed that up with home wins against Gardner Edgerton and Olathe South. Although the visiting Gardner Edgerton trailblazers were 0-6 coming into the matchup, they made it a close game down the stretch through their tenacious defense and quick layups.

“Today was a good reminder to our team that in league play it doesn’t matter what your record is,” head coach Mike Lewis said. “Our Sunflower league is a great league, and teams are able to compete and beat each other on any given night. We had a Gardner Edgerton team come in that was zero and six, and they gave us a good run for our money. It’s just the way our league works.”

Following the win against the trailblazers, the lions defeated the number six team in the state Olathe South. They won by a score of 47-41.

The Lions have been led all season by senior guard Zeke Mayo who has multiple 20+ point games already. Against Gardner Edgerton Mayo put up a double-double, scoring 19 points with 14 rebounds, in the 72-64 lion victory. He followed that up with 19 points against Olathe South.

“There was really only one guy who has been playing on varsity solidly, and that’s Zeke,” junior forward Jesse Self said.

Unlike any other year, one additional obstacle has hindered all sports like no other, as COVID-19 continues to present both scheduling problems and safety problems.

“Those capital letters everyone keeps talking about. C-O-V-I-D yeah? That’s a pretty big obstacle. One that I hope we don’t ever have to mess around with again,” head coach Mike Lewis said.

This mindset is not unique to Lewis. Players also agree with the nagging problems that COVID-19 presents to their season.

“I have to say COVID regulations, they’re kind of weird. We abide by them, but playing at home, wearing a mask kind of sucks. Playing on the road is better, you don’t have to play with a mask on. That’s fun. I just think following COVID regulations tightly, and also cancellations when the other team gets quarantined,” Self said.

Even with the team’s successful start, Lewis isn’t satisfied and will continue to push the team as the season progresses.

The lions look to sharpen up on the little things as February, and more importantly the playoffs, approach.

“As a team, I just think that you can continually nitpick,” Lewis said. “Nitpick the defense and nitpick the offense. We can always get better as a group on both ends of the floor. As a coach, just to continue to challenge our guys and involve our coaching staff in our decisions, and to take this on as a team.”

The success of the season has not set the lions back, and they continue to stay humble and hungry as the season progresses. Individual success is celebrated but not put above the team, which has contributed to the players strong chemistry.

“I think they’re dealing with it just fine, it’s a little hard to read,” Lewis said. “Immaturity can set in, and you can think that you’re pretty good and start to get a little cocky. I think with our guys, they’re going to continue to stay hungry and want to improve. Not just settle for our midseason nine and one. I think they want to finish this thing out and get into the substates, and be the best we can be at that point.”

Lewis and the lions are confident yet cautious in their ability to continue to win games. Using a group effort every game, the Lions continue to strive for greatness as the playoffs approach.

“It’s not about coach Lewis, it’s about our team and what we can accomplish as a group, so we gang up on it,” Lewis said. “Here comes February.”