LHS boys basketball team knocks off No. 1 BVNW to advance to the state semifinals

Senior+Zeke+Mayo+goes+for+a+layup+during+the+substate+championship+game+on+Friday%2C+March+5th.

Owen Musser

Senior Zeke Mayo goes for a layup during the substate championship game on Friday, March 5th.

By Cuyler Dunn, Assistant Online Editor

Just when it felt like the Lawrence High boys’ basketball team had fallen too far behind in Monday’s state quarterfinal basketball game, Zeke Mayo took two dribbles, a step back and nailed a three from the left-wing.

The senior guard scored 27 points filled with clutch basket after clutch basket to lead the Lawrence High School Chesty Lions to a 52-47 upset over the three-time defending champion Blue Valley Northwest Huskies on Monday, March 8th. The win sent LHS back to the state semifinals for the first time since 2017.

Lawrence High opened the game strong, jumping out to a 12-4 lead in the first quarter, they were led by early intensity from junior Avion Nelson, including a huge chase-down block. BVNW wouldn’t stay down for long though, as they blazed out on an 11-0 run following a timeout to regain the lead. 

The Lions fought from behind for most of the second and third quarters, plagued by turnovers that turned into easy baskets at the opposite end of the court. They stayed in the game with multiple big threes from Mayo to keep the Huskies’ lead to single digits. 

The fourth quarter is when it all changed for the Lions. Similar to the regular-season matchup between these two teams the fourth quarter was the deciding period, this time it went in the Lions’ favor.

In the regular-season matchup that ended in a BVNW win, the Huskies scored 23 fourth-quarter points to pull away. This time around, the Lions held them to five.

The premier defensive play came late in the game by Mayo. After junior Truman Juelsgaard made two free throws to give the Lions a 48-47 lead, BVNW point guard Alston Mason drove the ball past Juelsgaard and towards the basket when Mayo slid over, got his feet set and took the charge to give the Lions the ball back with only 1:29 left on the clock.

“That was probably my biggest play here,” said Mayo. “I think a lot of people look at me as a scorer, this year especially, but I think when I step up on defense, I really prove that I can play defense and I’m smart.” 

LHS sunk their free throws to ice the game and send them into the next round of the playoffs. 

Mayo made a similar defensive play in the substate final against Olathe West when he stole the ball off an inbounds pass with seconds left on the clock.

“He’s a winner and he wants what’s best for our team,” said head coach Mike Lewis in an interview with Uclick TV. “He’s not out here trying to get 30 points a night, he wants to do what’s best for our team. Defensively there, to step up and take a charge, and follow our scouting report and just be engaged and not be distracted or out of position speaks highly of who he is.”

Mayo wasn’t the only player who stepped up for the Chesty Lions. Nelson saw more minutes than usual due to typical starter Grant Cleavinger being sidelined with an injury. He used his minutes to make a huge impact. Nelson was all over the floor making defensive plays, scoring, passing and rebounding.

Even players that didn’t fill up the box score as much played critical roles down the stretch. Junior Jack Ryan, and seniors Corban Oberzan and Ntense Obono didn’t score any points but played valuable minutes defensively and brought lots of energy off the bench. 

“They were tough and they did a great job defensively,” Lewis said. “We wanted to send multiple layers at the Huskies. We didn’t want to be five guys, we wanted to be eight guys deep and keep it rolling. Our guys came in from the bench and did a great job.”

LHS came into the game as underdogs, something they haven’t been most of the season. The win leaves them as the highest-ranked team remaining in the playoffs.

“We were expected to lose this game,” said Mayo in a postgame interview with the Lawrence Journal-World. “We were the underdogs coming into the tournament. But we took care of business tonight, and we are going down to Wichita now. I’m very confident in what we have going.”

The Lions will now turn their attention to the state semifinals where they will be the number one seed and take on the Blue Valley North Mustangs.