Lansing boys' basketball reaching new heights — Lions make state finals for first time in 63 years

Lansing boys' basketball coach Rod Briggs wanted a timeout — badly.

Kapaun Mt. Carmel wasn’t going going down easy, having scored eight-straight points, and a once healthy Lions' lead head been cut to 49-42 late in the third quarter Friday.

Last year, Kapaun put together a similar rally and carried the momentum throughout the rest of the 2012 state semifinal. The Crusader surge eventually wore down that Lansing squad to the tune of a 72-49 defeat.

But last season, Lansing wasn't nearly as experienced as it was this time around. They also didn’t have Roy Clayter, either.

Clayter came out of the timeout and took the game over, using his size and athleticism to get close-range shots, or more often, a foul. When he was double teamed, the senior transfer kicked it out to the perimeter for a wide-open 3-pointer.

The forward's tour de force stemmed Kapaun’s momentum and carried the Lions to a 71-56 win. More importantly, it also catapulted the Lions into tonight’s state final against undefeated Shawnee Mission South.

“We’ve been working at this for several years,” Briggs said. “We’ve got some guys who will be playing in their ninth state tournament game tomorrow. It has been a process.”

For the first time since 1950, Lansing will compete for a state crown when the team faces the No. 1 seeded Raiders, 24-0, at 6:15 p.m. inside the Topeka Expocentre. If the 22-1 Lions can pull off the upset, it will be the first state boys' basketball title in school history.

All that nearly melted away, though, in the third quarter. That is when Clayter went into beast mode, however, at a time when the Lions had become uncharacteristically complacent in their offensive execution.

“We were settling for some outside shots,” Briggs said. “No team has shot well from outside in this tournament, so we needed to get closer shots.”

Lansing got the memo. Clayter quickly got to the line on two straight possessions. The Lions took his cue, with paint-makes by Joe Schneider and Donte Gibson at the start of the fourth quarter.

By the time Clayter shook the shot clock with a one-handed jam on a fast break, Kapaun’s run was long in the rear view.

“Coaches tell us to take advantage of mismatches, and I had a smaller guy guarding me, so I took advantage and got to the line,” Clayter said.

Behind Clayter’s 21 points and 11 rebounds, Khalil Bailey had 16 points and Joe Schneider had 14.

“Roy Clayter is among the most talented players I’ve coached, especially from an athleticism standpoint,” Briggs said. “He has taken it to another level this tournament.”

Early on, Lansing worked their way out to a 17-11 advantage by the end of the first quarter. The Lions’ half-court pressure forced Kapaun to labor through possessions. By the second quarter, the defense started forcing turnovers.

The turnover discrepancy was 9-2 at halftime. By the end of the game, it was 14-4.

But when it looked like the Crusaders might buckle early in the third, the opposite happened, and they started narrowing the gap.

Briggs called the timeout, and this time around, the rest of the night belonged to the Lions.

Now, it’s on to the undefeated Raiders.

Shawnee Mission South breezed through the first two rounds of the state competition. First, the top seed took down Salina South (9-12) 82-38.

Then the squad took out Mill Valley 70-57 in the semis to earn its spot in the finals.

For obvious reason, Briggs called the Lions an underdog. But that means little to the ball coach and his players.

“They’re undefeated and we’ve got one loss,” he said. “But this isn’t a series. All we have to do is beat them once.”

For up-to-the-minute results from today’s final, follow

State Tournament Notebook — Friday Edition

* Thirty-six members of the Lansing High School band made the trip to Topeka Friday to support the basketball team.

For senior member J.T. Hager, this was his third trip to the state tournament.

“I think it’s a great experience for the band to go to state,” Hager said. “I think the basketball team appreciates the support we give them.”

* Over 100 Lansing students packed into four pep buses and made the hour-long trek to support their fellow Lions.

The fans also made fatheads ― giant cardboard face signs ― of the whole basketball team including  head coach Rod Briggs.

“We have great fans,” Lansing athletic director Gary Mattingly said. “It’s nice to see them come out and support their school.”

* Last, but certainly not least, the Lansing cheerleading squad descended on Topeka to cheer on the boys.

“I have been to state three years,” senior caption Megan Goebel said. “I’m ready to see them win.”

* The Class 5A state basketball tournament attracted media from all over the state as well.

Numerous radio and television outlets were there to cover the action, including Kansas City's MetroSports, Topeka's WWIBW radio and Wichita's CBS affiliate in Wichita KWCH 12.

* Friday's starting lineup for the Lions included guards Lucas Mein, Dontae Gibson and Joe Schneider plus forwards Clay Young and Roy Clayter.

Lansing donned its white tops and shorts with red trim for the contest.

— James Howey