The Lyons boys basketball team raised their Mile High League record to a respectable 3-2 mark last week, splitting a pair of road games. The first was a tough match at Denver Christian on Tuesday night versus the eighth-ranked Thunder. The Lions were looking for an upset, however, a series of unfortunate events would work against their favor.
Following a promising start scoring six quick points to help Lyons jump out to a 14-7 first quarter lead, junior Jordan Valente suffered a sprained ankle. The injury would keep Valente on the bench for the rest of the game. With senior Isaac Roberts unable to suit up due to illness and two other varsity subs ineligible, only five healthy players were left to finish the contest.
The remaining Lyons were up for the challenge. The inside-out game of sophomore Gage Basey and freshman Tucker Mills, combined with tough half-court defense, kept the Lions close at halftime. With the score 23-20, the Lions were down just three at the break.
The second half was an up-and-down affair that would see Denver Christian increase the lead a number of times followed by Lyons’ rallies. One theme that is becoming clear with this young group of Lyons ballers is that there is no quit in them. Each time the Thunder appeared to have a stranglehold on the game, the Lions would come up with a volley of points to keep the game close.
In the end, the lack of depth proved too much to overcome. Mills hit a three pointer at the buzzer to account for the final 51-45 margin. Mills tallied 14 points and 11 rebounds to record his third double double of the season. Basey was also in double figures with 16 points, seven rebounds, and 4 blocks.
Friday night is always a good night for basketball. At the Faith Point Gym in Longmont versus the Longmont Christian Warriors, Lyons High School brought a vocal student section to support the Lions. Backed by their fellow students, the Lyons boys were looking to bounce back from Tuesday’s loss with another league win. For the better part of the matchup, it appeared the Lions would fall short. But then came the fourth quarter.
Once again shorthanded due to injury, illness, and eligibility, the Lyons’ boys staggered out to a 16-5 deficit after the first frame. Sophomore Grant Gau and freshman Alex Dugan dressed out and made their varsity debuts in the second quarter to give the tired starters a break. Both held up admirably and allowed the first five to prepare for the second half, trailing 29-17.
Coach Jahmiel McLawrence’s decision to switch out of a matchup zone defense to man-to-man provided a spark that would finally give the Lions some momentum. Longmont Christian’s senior Ryan Shellenberger is as consistent a scorer as they come, averaging 16 points per game. Lyons’ senior Harrison Abernathy drew the tall task of guarding Shellenberger for the remainder of the game. Abernathy’s defense was special. The senior flew around the court, frustrating the Warriors guard with a tenacious attitude. McLawrence said of his senior guard, “Our run was kick-started by Harry’s on-ball defense. We were able to then turn defense into offense.”
Still, toward the end of the third quarter, the Lions found themselves down by as many as 18. Without flinching, the boys won the final minute of the third and cut the lead to 11.
The fourth quarter would belong to the Lions.
Freshmen Tucker Mills and Nathan Richardson followed Abernathy’s tenacity on defense with an offensive explosion. The pair combined to hit five three pointers, including three in a row by Richardson, to cut the lead to two points with under two minutes to go. After another defensive stop, it was Abernathy’s turn to light up the net. With an open Richardson waiting at the top of the key, Abernathy did what seniors do and took the big shot himself, knocking it down.
With the Lions up by one point, Abernathy forced a contested shot that was rebounded by junior Bode Shiver. This set off a series of fouls by Longmont Christian, who had four to give. Finally, the Lions inbounded the ball to Richardson, who was fouled with 25 seconds left and given the one and one opportunity. Richardson cashed in both of them to put the Lions up three.
The boys held up defensively, and another free throw by Shiver would make it a four-point win, capping a dramatic comeback. Mills led the Lions with 23 points, Basey added 15, and Richardson 11. But the MVP of this game was Abernathy thanks to his defensive efforts that allowed the Warriors only seven fourth-quarter points. The Lions sit at 5-7 (3-2 Mile High League) and are looking forward to hosting Clear Creek this Friday, January 31.
McLawrence said after the comeback, “The resiliency and high character of this team continues to impress me. That win was a total team effort that started on the defensive end.”