(WESTON, Mo.) The Lawson boys have captured back-to-back KCI Conference titles, which made them a favorite again heading into this season.
But, they have a strong contender breathing down their neck in West Platte.
Players and coaches around the conference had talked of the Blue Jays as a team to beat when the season began.
That talent was on display first-hand when they knocked off the defending conference champs to win the early-season KCI Tournament.
"It's fun to go out there and improve every game and come away with a win," senior guard Matthew Heili said. "But we also saw some room for improvement. It's a good thing to see where we're at at the start of the season."
Where they are is a perfect 9-0 start, with nine days still before their next game. Perhaps they could be the top dog early on in the KCI, as every one of their victories has come by double digits.
But the team knows they still have a long way to go to overthrow the Cardinals.
"When they've won it the last two years they'll be ready," head coach Zane Tanner said. "They're well-coached. Brad Smith does a great job."
Following the loss of Hunter Faris, the Blue Jays have moved from zone to a man-to-man look on defense. The change of pace and focus has caught everyone's attention.
"It's like night and day from last year," junior forward/guard Adam Roe said. "Our whole focus has been on defense. We just do defense and let offense take care of itself."
"Even making the extra pass is fun because then you see a guy get a dunk or hit an open three and the crowd goes nuts," Heili said. "You feed off that and it's been really fun."
West Platte certainly has the athleticism to both pass and dunk.
Athletic bodies like Nathan Coulson and Bryce Cashman in the post mixed with guard play of Heili and Logan Moose will have many eyes on the Blue Jays heading into 2013.
"I kind of like the fact that people are gunning for you," Tanner said. "I think it makes you more prepared every time you play. We've talked about that, we come to practice, we try to get better."
"We know we're going to get every team's best, so we've got to give our best every night," Roe added.
"We can't just take it for granted and go out on the court thinking we're going to win," Heili said. "We have to go out and prove it."
With a six-game run through the conference until their rematch with Lawson, Tanner and company have plenty more tests to see how far they can go.
"The stretch of these next couple months in our conference, it'll be good for us to be able to lean back on that knowing, if we give that type of effort, we should be able to compete for a championship," he said.