The Lyons boys basketball team played two conference games last week. The Lions split the pair, beating Gilpin High School at home on Tuesday night and dropping a close one against seventh-ranked Heritage Christian on Thursday in Fort Collins.
The Gilpin game featured strong performances by sophomore forward Gage Basey (16 points, 12 rebounds) and teammate freshman Tucker Mills (15 points, 12 rebounds). When Gilpin and Lyons match up, there is a sense of rivalry in the gym, as the teams faced off in last year’s regional matchup, which Lyons won. Eager to upset the Lions on their home court, the Gilpin boys raced out to a 21-18 lead at the half.
Throughout the contest, Mills and Basey rebounded, played tough defense, and hit big shots. Their efforts kept the Lions in the game with a combination of inside and outside play. Basey owned the middle, while Mills’ outside shooting and dribble penetration led the Lions throughout the third and early fourth quarter. The game featured several lead changes and momentum swings, which led to rising tension and excitement throughout the final period.
The boys and girls played on the same night, so the gym was boisterous, with parents, students, and Dr. Karen Gregg’s pep band in the house. Down the stretch, the Lions kept their poise, while Gilpin struggled under the pressure. Freshman Nathan Richardson hit two free throws with the game on the line to put Lyons up by four, a lead they would not relinquish. Tough defense and ball security carried the Lions to a 45-43 final score. The result was an important win over a conference opponent and emerging rival.
At Heritage Christian on Thursday night, the 6-1 Eagles got out to a six-point halftime lead, thanks in part to some missed opportunities by the Lions. Lyons’ 6’8″ junior big man Jordan Valente is a presence in the middle that most teams in the state are not afforded.
Valente had several opportunities inside, along with fellow slasher and leading scorer Basey. The two were able to limit the Eagles’ opportunities inside. However, the big Lions were unable to convert from close range on several open attempts. A zone rotation error by the Lions’ defense gave up three points at the halftime buzzer. Due to their aggressive play, and some hot shooting from freshman Mills, the boys were down by just six at the half.
The third quarter was not as kind to the Lions. Coach Jahmiel McLawrence employed a variety of defenses, including man-to-man and a matchup zone, but could not keep the Eagles from hitting shot after shot throughout the period. The Lions had a few too many turnovers and continued to struggle finding the bottom of the basket throughout the frame. Despite their hard work on the defensive end, the Lions boys were down by 14 heading into the final eight minutes.
The fourth quarter was all Lions. Senior guard Harrison Abernathy found Basey inside. Basey, who was fouled on consecutive possessions, hit three free throws to get the scoring started. The rest of the quarter belonged to Richardson. Richardson, who had yet to score in the game, hit five consecutive three pointers during a four minute stretch that pulled the Lions within two. With Lyons trailing 55-52 with under 10 seconds to go, the Eagles missed a pair of free throws. McLawrence called a timeout while Heritage Christian braced for a final Lyons possession. Lyons’ Mills received the inbound pass and drove the length of the court but was forced to shoot a bit off balance, and the shot missed its mark.
Starting two freshmen and a sophomore, the young Lions are well on their way to a promising season. Reflecting on the week and the status of this team, coach McLawrence stated, “We are young and inexperienced, so with that comes a lot of silly mistakes and sometimes sloppy play, but all the kids have bought in and really love learning and playing together. We have played a lot of close games, and I think that’s important for a young team down the stretch. These young guys never waiver in the face of adversity, a testament to their heart. I’m really enjoying coaching this group of players.”
After the week the boys sit at 4-6 (2-1 in the Mile High League), a respectable improvement from last year’s campaign that struggled to find early wins.