Boys basketball team’s strong season falls short

Chesty Lions finish strong season with heartbreaking OT loss in substate championship.


Audrey Basham

The boys basketball team huddles on the sideline after a timeout on February 4 in a game versus Shawnee Mission Northwest. The Lions defeated the Cougars 83-71.

By Andrew Phalen, Co-Editor In Chief of

Over the past decade, Lawrence High boys basketball head coach Mike Lewis has established the Chesty Lions as one of the state’s perennial powerhouses. 

“He does a great job of being consistent with the ways he holds his players accountable on and off the court,” assistant coach Scott Lane said. “He is also very patient and allows guys the space to fail and try again and build on their mistakes. Every great coach is a great teacher and Coach Lewis embodies that.”  

The 2021-2022 Lawrence High boys basketball team finished the regular season with a 16-4 record, good for the number two overall seed in the class 6A east bracket. After a blowout victory over Olathe East, The Lions ultimately fell in overtime to the Olathe West Owls 73-69 in the sub-state championship. 

At the beginning of the year, the roster had a massive hole to fill after the graduation of star guard Zeke Mayo, who is now a South Dakota State Jackrabbit. 

Sophomore guard Zaxton King, who played junior varsity as a freshman, was the Lions’ main scoring option throughout the season. King averaged 19.2 points per game on 45% from the field. King also supplemented his stellar offensive play with stout defense, averaging a team-high 2.1 steals per game. 

Lane believes King’s calm and quiet demeanor is a unique strength he possesses on the hardwood. 

“Today guys are taunting more and more on the court and it’s become common to see technicals for taunting, Zaxton does a great job of just letting his game do his talking which I really admire for a guy with his abilities.”

Lawrence High also saw major contributions from senior forward Pearse Long, who averaged 13.4 points per game. Long proved to be a versatile asset for the Lions, using his 6’5” frame to average 5.2 rebounds per game while also leading the team in three-point percentage, shooting at a 33% clip. 

Fellow senior starting guards Avion Nelson, Truman Juelsgaard and Baylor Bowen played pivotal roles in the team’s success. 

Nelson quickly became known for his high-flying dunks across the state after a posterizing jam versus Mill Valley on January 14 was shared widely on Twitter. 

“In mid-air, I had closed eyes because I didn’t want to see myself miss,” Nelson said when recounting the dunk. “When I heard the crowd, I opened my eyes and saw that I had made it. The gym went wild after that.”

Juelsgaard was the floor general for Lawrence High and Bowen, a transfer from Argyle, Texas, served as another viable scoring option and solid wing defender. 

Off the bench, seniors guard and Free State transfer Hobbs Herlihy and forward Grant Cleavinger provided countless sparks with their hustle and overall intensity.

“In my short time as an LHS basketball player, I will look back and remember how we just stuck together when things got tough,” Herlihy said.

 Junior big men Cole Watson and Lance Bassett also saw minutes due to their physicality. 

While senior Jabari Johnson rarely appeared in games, his value was apparent to those around the team. 

“Jabari is a great presence,” said junior Jack Ritter, who serves as the team’s head manager. “He keeps guys’ energy up in practice by working hard and during games by encouraging the other guys. Seeing him win winter court royalty was one of the biggest moments of the season and was awesome to see him recognized for the great guy he is.” 

While the season ended much sooner than the Lions anticipated, the senior class will still look back fondly on their memories of the program. 

“I’ll remember this group of players as hard workers,” senior manager Aidan Zimney said. “Every single one of them put in hours upon hours of hard work every single day inside and outside of practice.” 

“I couldn’t be happier with my experience being a Chesty Lion,” Juelsgaard said. “The relationships I have created through Lawrence High basketball are truly incredible.”