Lawrence High girls basketball coach David Platt knows firsthand the quality of Overland Park Aquinas basketball.
Aquinas manhandled the Lions in back-to-back games during the regular season by a combined score of 126-64. The two losses started a current 13-game losing skid for the Lions, who finished the regular season with a 3-17 record and No. 8 seed for tonight's Class 6A sub-state at LHS. The Lions will play host to the Saints (19-1) at approximately 7:45 p.m. in the LHS gym.
Aquinas, the sub-state's No. 1 seed, is ranked No. 2 in the state by the coaches. Its lone loss was a 53-50 setback to Hutchinson in the championship of the Glacier's Edge girls basketball tournament on Jan. 27 in Emporia
"Aquinas might be the best team in the state," LHS coach David Platt said. "That loss to Hutchinson could have been an aberration."
Aquinas, which averages 65 points a game, is stacked. Sophomore guard Lauren Wenski averages 18 points, four rebounds and three steals a game to lead the Saints' balanced attack. Freshman forward Carolyn McCullough (15 ppg), senior guard Melissa Watkins (10 ppg) and junior forward Ebony Haliburton (9 ppg) are also proven scorers.
"We knew we'd be pretty good, but we didn't know we'd be 19-1 with the EKL (Eastern Kansas League) always being a dogfight," said third-year Aquinas head coach Rick Hetzel, who was an assistant for the Saints for three years under Craig Hershiser, now Free State High's head coach.
Aquinas thrives on its pressure defense, which often results in transition baskets. The Saints allow 43 points a game.
"We like to run and press," Hetzel said. "We try to win every possession. A lot of our kids can score and they all work hard defensively."
The Lions have succumbed to pressure defense all season. Platt realizes LHS must avoid miscues to have any chance against potent Aquinas.
"If we turn the ball over we'll be in trouble," Platt said. "Taking care of the ball has been emphasized in practice this week."
Junior forward Mandy Amyx (10.4 ppg), senior guard Tayler Guntert (8.9), sophomore guard Leigh DeBiasse (8.3) and senior forward Emily Schwartz (7.1) lead the Lions, who average 44.8 points a game and surrender 56.9 points per game.
LHS has already set a school record for losses (17) in a season. The Lions are 1-9 at home this season, including a 59-27 loss to Aquinas on Jan. 16.
"Our record doesn't show the real character of this team," Platt said. "These girls work hard in practice every day. It just hasn't translated into wins on the court."
In the first sub-state semifinal tonight at LHS, Olathe South (12-8) and Olathe North (11-9) will meet at 6 p.m. Olathe North defeated Olathe South, 36-29, on Jan. 4 in their lone meeting of the regular season.
The sub-state championship is set for 6 p.m. Saturday in the LHS gym.