You don't have your best season in school history as a one-trick pony.
So when Lansing's outside shots wouldn't fall Thursday, the Lions had plenty of other tools at their disposal.
Namely, the Lions' stifling defense and resulting run-and-gun transition offense, which covered up for some cold shooting, carried the Lions to a 59-42 win over Hays in the opening round of the Class 5A state tournament.
"The different environment of the Expocentre threw off our shooting, so we knew we had to score in other ways," Lion guard Lucas Mein said. "That's why we have guys like Roy [Clayter] and Khalil [Bailey] to slash inside."
After a full day in the classroom today, the Lions will come back to Topeka to face Kapaun Mt. Carmel tonight at 8:15. Carmel defeated Lansing last year in this exact same semifinal.
Win that and the red and white will compete for a state crown Saturday evening.
"This is definitely the best team I've been on," Mein said. "We're confident."
Aggressive defense leading to at-the-rim offense has been the M.O. for the Lions this year, and Thursday was no different.
Lansing forced 21 turnovers to win the points-off-turnovers battle 27-9. Those gaudy numbers more than made up for its poor 2-of-13 3-point shooting.
The Lions pounced early on the Indians. Lansing forced turnovers and ran out to an 18-9 lead in the first quarter.
Athletic big man Clayter had the game's first eight points and two dunks.
"The coaches know I'm an unselfish player, but they tell me not to be too tentative. The shots were there for me so I took them," Clayter said.
Hays successfully slowed down the Lion attack in the second quarter by deploying a 3-2 zone and having 6-foot-6-inch Brady Werth patrol inside. Lansing patiently passed to get open outside shots, but they bricked off the rim.
Hays carried the second quarter 11-9 to cut Lansing's edge to a 27-20 halftime lead.
But in the third quarter, Lansing eschewed half-court offense and dictated with their patented pressure defense.
"I told them to turn up the energy a little bit at halftime," Lions coach Rob Briggs said. "Our guys have been here before, and they were almost a little too calm."
Lansing went on a 14-6 run to open the third and steal away the momentum Hays had started to build before half. Hays worked its way back to an 11-point deficit going into the fourth, but the Lions never relented, closing out the contest with breathing room.
Clayter led the way with 19 points, followed by Khalil Bailey's 10 and Clayton Young's 10. Joe Schneider pitched in nine and Donte Gibson had six.
Page 2 of 2 - Tonight's semifinals opponent, Kapaun Mt. Carmel from Wichita, finished 16-6 in the regular season as the state's 21st ranked team.
As stated, they defeated the Lions last year in the semifinals, though that Lansing team didn't have the athleticism and talent of this year's squad — a proclamation that Briggs doesn't hesitate to agree with.
"Oh yeah, this is the best team I've coached here," Briggs said.