Emporia Tracie Lee started the high school girls basketball season on Lawrence High's junior varsity.
From there, as is often the case, she moved to the end of the varsity bench.
On Thursday night, Lee, an LHS sophomore forward who's now among the first to come off the bench, scored a varsity career-high 20 points in the third-ranked Lions' 90-23 thrashing of Wichita East in the first round of the Glacier's Edge tournament.
"I could have done better," Lee said. "I was nervous. This was the first game I played all four quarters with the varsity. I gave it all I got."
The Lions, 9-1 and the tournament's three-time defending champion, will face Wichita Heights in tonight's 6:30 p.m. semifinal. Heights (6-5) advanced with a 50-46 victory over Hutchinson on Thursday.
Lee and the rest of the Lions took advantage of a considerable height advantage. LHS hit 65.5 percent, and Lee canned nine of 11 field goals.
LEE ALSO grabbed nine rebounds and notched five steals.
"Is Tracie ready for varsity or what," Lawrence coach Gary Hammer asked rhetorically. "The purpose of the junior varsity is to get players ready for varsity competition. Tracie can run the floor, she has a nice touch, she's a good passer. She's just a natural talent. She makes us so much stronger."
Wichita East coach Terry Normore, attested to the Lions' strength.
"They did everything right," Normore said. "On both ends of the court, they just killed us. They played the whole game, taking it to us. If we had shown more hustle, we would have been in the game, but we didn't work for it. But there was no defending against them."
Julie Neuschafer, a 5-11 senior forward, and Jennifer Trapp, a 6-0 junior center, scored the Lions' first 16 points. LHS jumped to a 16-2 lead and held the Aces without a field goal for more than seven minutes en route to a 25-4 first-quarter lead.
Hammer then called of the full-court press, which helped force nine Wichita East turnovers in the first period, but the Lions nonetheless led, 44-16, at the half.
"WE REALLY had a big height advantage," said Neuschafer, who scored a game-high 21 points. "We got the ball inside. We just looked inside, and we were real open."
Lawrence's front-liners Neuschafer, Trapp (17 points), Megan Kampschroeder (four points) and Lee combined for 62 points.
The Lions forced 36 turnovers, but turned it over 22 times. Many of those turnovers were forced by the Aces' full-court press.
"One thing we need to work on is breaking the press," Hammer said. "We didn't handle it with the poise I think we should."
Defensively, though, the Lions manhandled Wichita East. The Aces hit just 17.6 of their field-goal attempts.
DERBY TRIPPED Lawrence's junior varsity, 56-41, in another first-round game. Amanda Mellinger led the JV with 11 points, and Kathy O'Konski added 10.
The LHS junior varsity, a late addition to the tournament field after the withdrawl of Rose Hill, will face Leavenworth in today's 4:45 consolation game.
The Pioneers lost to Emporia, 78-23, in Thursday's final round.