Undefeated Shawnee Mission East controlled the glass and missed only one of 26 free throws Friday in a 69-53 rout at home against Leavenworth.
By TOD PALMER
The Kansas City Star
Opening the Sunflower League slate, the Lancers, 6-0, owned a 32-18 rebounding edge, including nine first-half offensive rebounds en route to a 15-point halftime lead.
“Anytime you want to compete for a league title, you’ve got to get off to a good start,” SM East coach Shawn Hair said. “It’s crucial. Leavenworth is always in the hunt for the league title, so it’s a crucial win.”
There were signs the Lancers were poised to blow out the Pioneers, 3-2, early when SM East went on a 15-4 first-quarter run only to be reeled right back in.
Powered by its skilled interior tandem, sophomore Lucas Jones and senior Zach Schneider, SM East broke in front 17-9, but — after a well-spent timeout by coach Larry Hogan — Leavenworth rallied behind senior reserve forward Mike Thomas to stay within 19-16 after the first quarter.
When the Lancers went streaking again in the second quarter, the Pioneers had no answer.
Senior guard Vance Wentz, whose diving tie-up at midcourt keyed a late second-quarter surge, scored seven points and Schneider added eight in a 23-point outburst that effectively buried Leavenworth.
“We wanted to pound the ball inside, because we felt like we had a pretty good advantage and that Zach and Lucas could dominate their matchups,” said senior guard Vance Wentz, who signed with Montana State in November. “We did a pretty good job executing that game plan.”
Schneider, who finished with 23 points and five rebounds, had 17 points and Jones grabbed seven of his game-best eight rebounds while scoring all six of his points — including a fast-break dunk off a steal at half-court — before the break.
“Those guys are just a tough matchup,” Hair said. “They can play outside on the perimeter, they can play inside and they’re so good around the basket.”
Jones, who had been nursing a sore ankle, reinjured it and sat out much of the second half.
The lead fluctuated between 13 and 19 points in the third quarter before Schneider, who also had three assists, flipped a ball over his shoulder for senior Jackson Sublette, whose buzzer-beating three-pointer had the Lancers ahead 59-39 entering the final period.
“Everyone in the Sunflower League will take notice that Shawnee Mission East blew out Leavenworth tonight, because Leavenworth is always one of the best teams in the league,” Schneider said.
Wentz finished with 21 points and four boards.
To reach Tod Palmer, call 816-234-4389 or send email to email@example.com. Follow him at twitter.com/todpalmer.