By TOMMY REZAC
St. Joseph Post
LIBERTY - It took Lafayette until the 2:17 mark of the first quarter to knock down their first offensive field goal of the game.
Once the Irish broke that seal, though, the flood gates opened.
Lafayette (21-7) knocked down eight total three-pointers, including five in the third quarter, and the Irish ultimately cruised to a 62-38 win over Odessa in a Class 4 state sectional game at William Jewell's Mabee Center in Liberty Monday.
"We just had to come out and be solid on defense," Lafayette senior Camden Bennett said. "Just pressure the ball and...I thought we could come out with a 'W' and we did."
Odessa (13-14) got off to a 4-1 start after holding Lafayette off the board altogether in the game's first four minutes.
Trailing 6-3, Bennett got things going late in the first with a layup to draw it to within one. Connor Zeit followed shortly thereafter with a three-pointer to put the Irish up 8-6.
Lafayette never trailed again.
The Irish ended the first quarter on a 7-0 run to up 10-6 entering the second. A George Galloway three and a couple more layups by Bennett helped the Irish take a 21-13 lead into the locker room.
Odessa hung in for a bit, making three triples and going 5-for-5 at the free throw line in the third quarter. But, the Bulldogs were no match for Lafayette's onslaught to start the second half.
The Irish buried five three-pointers in the third quarter, three of them from Connor Zeit alone, and Lafayette made nine total field goals in the third to go up 46-27 entering the fourth.
Six more points from Bennett in the fourth quarter, and an extra three from Galloway, helped put the game on ice.
Bennett finished with a game-high 15 points. Connor Zeit had 12 - all from long range. Galloway finished with 11, while senior Mikey Thomas scored nine of his 10 points in the third quarter.
"We didn't want to settle for threes all night," Zeit said. "Once we found a good mix of getting to the hoop and knocking down shots, I think that really helped us increase our lead throughout the game."
Jackson Murry led Odessa with 13 points. The Bulldogs had turnover problems, especially in the first half, and wound up with 17 giveaways.
"Defense is this team's best attribute," Lafayette coach Kevin Bristol said. "When we're focused and being consistent with what we do, and our principles on how we play defense, we're damn good."
Lafayette has now won seven straight games, and have punched their ticket to the state quarterfinals for the first time since 2020.
Lafayette will next face Center (18-7) on Friday at 4 p.m. at State Fair Community College in Sedalia with a trip to the Final Four on the line.
"It's really rewarding," Bennett said. "We put a lot of work in this year. Everyone has put their heart and souls into this year and just being able to go to the quarterfinals, it's something we haven't done in a few years. It's really special, and I'm just hoping we can get it done Friday."
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