For the last eight years, there’s been something special brewing in the gyms of Lansing.
By KATHLEEN GIER
The Kansas City Star
It started with a fifth-grade basketball team that featured Zach Jackson, Joe Schneider, Dontae’ Gibson, Ryan Carlson and Khalil Bailey. By the time they had made it to seventh grade their team was so well-oiled that they went undefeated the next two years before high school.
Now, that same core of players is leading Lansing with a 12-0 record and 6-0 mark in league play. The high school record for the five currently sits at 72-13 with a runner-up finish in the Kansas Class 5A state tournament last season.
“Experience is our biggest strength,” head coach Rod Briggs said. “Between all of them, they’ve played together for a long time, so that really is helpful because they have really good team chemistry.”
Schneider said that chemistry makes it easy to keep playing together.
“It adds a lot of trust on the court because we know that if we mess up, someone’s got our back, and we know everyone is capable of making plays,” Schneider said.
The Lions climbed up to the No. 2 spot in the Kansas Basketball Coaches Class 5A rankings this week following a 67-59 victory against Blue Springs South in the championship game of the Vikings Classic. Schneider led the Lions with 21 points, which included five three-pointers. Jackson and Bailey followed with 20 and 17 points respectively.
“Our guys knew they could play with them, and we had a pretty good game plan,” Briggs said. “In the fourth quarter I think we wore them down a little bit. I think we had better legs than they had and made big shots.”
Jackson is leading the team, and ranks third in the Kaw Valley League, with a 16.5 points per game average. Schneider, who signed a letter of intent in the fall to play at the Air Force Academy, is averaging 13.8 points per game. He has been heating up from beyond the arc with 12 three-pointers in his last four games. Then there’s Bailey, who recently committed to play football at Butler County Community College and is adding 12.1 points per game.
“We just execute well and it is hard to guard our team,” Bailey said. “We’re very athletic, and we have a couple slashers. If we slash it and you come guard us, we have some shooters out in the open that we can dish it to.”
Lansing currently has a one-game lead over Basehor Linwood in the KVL standings and defeated the Bobcats 64-52 earlier this season. Lansing will next face Tonganoxie on Tuesday at 7:15 p.m.
“We’ve got to have a great effort every night, especially at the defensive end, and just do what we do every night and that will be good enough for us,” Briggs said. “There’s not much more you can do than what you’re good at.”