Changing from an average to good basketball team can take a couple of years, and Shawnee Mission East has moved in the right direction the previous few seasons.
By TODD ENGLE
Special to The Star
The Lancers fancy themselves a team on the rise, and they took another step on Saturday, beating Oklahoma City’s Bishop McGuinness 34-23 in the title game of the inaugural ARC Madness tournament.
The game was a 17-all slugfest at halftime, and East, 3-0, never was able to open the throttle on its offense.
But the Lancers adjusted to Bishop McGuinness’ 2-3 zone in the second half, and they defended with gusto.
The Fighting Irish, 4-1, managed just six points in the second half and didn’t have a two-point field goal until the first minute of the fourth quarter.
“Early in the season we haven’t done a lot of work against the zone, and that probably had an effect,” East senior Zach Schneider said. “We just didn’t move the ball well in the first half, and that’s why the score was 17-17. A big key was getting it inside.”
The 6-foot-7 Schneider (nine points, seven rebounds) and 6-6 Lucas Jones (11 points, 11 rebounds) did most of their damage in the second half.
The Lancers figured out a way to go through the zone in the second half after trying to go over it in the first.
“We just focused on defense coming out and attacked and had an aggressive mentality,” senior Vance Wentz said. “We tried to get the ball inside and play inside out.”
Schneider, Jones and Wentz made the all-tournament team, and Jones won tournament MVP honors.
The Lancers scored the first seven points of the third quarter and took control of the game. Bishop McGuinness was able to cut the deficit to five points with about 5 minutes left, despite East’s defensive dominance.
East responded by scoring the final six points and not allowing a point thereafter. It wasn’t overly pretty, but it was darn effective.
More important, coach Shawn Hair’s team did something he’s been harping on since last season ended.
“We were just so young the first two years when Vance and Zach were freshmen and sophomores. We were in a lot of games but couldn’t finish,” Hair said. “Last year we had a better season. We were 12-10 but still couldn’t get over the hump. We talked about this whole preseason, summer workouts, weights workouts, about finishing strong. We got off to a good start, but we need to finish. We need to finish in games, and during the season.”
There’s still plenty of season left, but so far, so good for the Lancers.