Boys basketball team starts season strong

The Lions have jumped out to a 7-2 record while eyeing an eighth straight state tournament appearance

By Cuyler Dunn, Co-Editor in Chief of The Budget

Led by a strong core of returning players and multiple key newcomers, the LHS boys basketball team has jumped out to a strong 7-2 start to the year.

The Lions began the year 3-1 outside of league play before turning their attention to the always competitive Sunflower League.

They started off league play with a road win against Shawnee Mission North 64-52. After the win, they returned home for a battle against Olathe West. The Lions played the visiting Owls close, but a strong offensive showing from OW, partnered with a cold shooting night from the Lions, led to the home defeat 73-64.

LHS, determined to return to form after the uncharacteristic home loss, stared down three straight road matchups. Playing away from home proved to be no concern for the Lions, though, as they won all three games by margins of 27, 30 and 18 points respectively.

The Lions looked dominant in all three road contests, a quick shift from their frustrating defeat at home against Olathe West.

“Away wins are better because it’s not our house,” senior JaBari Johnson said. “It’s more packed, so the wins mean more.”

The biggest factor in the turnaround was a renewed focus on defense.

The LHS coaching staff pushed the team to focus on defensive improvement and let it guide them into transition offense where they can pick up easy buckets. The coaches also focused on communication when the team was out in transition.

“We’re working on talking during defense,” Johnson said. “During transition you have to say who you’ve got. We’ve improved a lot.”

The Lions will take their improved defense to Topeka where they will compete in the Topeka Invitational Tournament. Their first matchup is today against 7-1 Topeka West.

Maya Smith

“I think we’re great this year and we have a lot of guys that can do what we need to win games,” senior Pearse Long said. “Right now we’re focusing on this Topeka tournament and then we move forward to chasing a championship.”

After last season, where COVID-19 restrictions limited fan attendance, players have drawn lots of energy from the return of rowdy student sections, pep bands and packed arenas.

The Lions will look to carry their success through the rest of the season as they eye what would be a record-setting eighth straight state tournament appearance.

“I love the atmosphere that the students and people bring to the games, it’s awesome,” senior Truman Juelsgaard said. “We are just getting started and getting better every day.”

Ryan Hardie and Andrew Phalen contributed to this report.