By Steve Rottinghaus
Before Friday's Class 6A sub-state girls basketball semifinal between Lawrence High and Overland Park Aquinas at LHS, both teams stood facing the flag, awaiting the national anthem.
The anthem was never played.
The Lions should have saluted the Saints instead. Aquinas, the sub-state's No. 1 seed and second-ranked team in 6A, scored on a layin two seconds after the tip and were never challenged, rolling to a 69-28 victory over the No. 8 seed Lions.
The Saints (20-1) have won eight in a row entering today's 6A sub-state final against Olathe South at LHS. O-South (13-8) beat Olathe North, 60-36, in the first semifinal on Friday. Tipoff for the sub-state final is 5:30 p.m.
"That shows our girls how much farther we have to go to be competitive," said LHS coach David Platt, whose squad suffered its worst loss of the season to end 3-18. "That team is phenomenal and awesome. You can tell they enjoy basketball."
The Saints enjoy running the court. Aquinas forced 25 turnovers, including 15 steals that often resulted in easy layins.
"We've got a lot of kids who can play, so you want to get the other team tired," said Aquinas coach Rick Hetzel, whose squad beat LHS three times this season. "You want to get down the floor, push the ball a little bit. We have a lot of offensive weapons and we like to get the ball around to all of them."
Sophomore guard Lauren Wenski scored a game-high 19 points and had three steals.
"We've been working hard all week and we know what we want to accomplish," Wenski said. "Defense is definitely a big thing for us. Defense is what we pride ourselves in and that's what we work hard on."
The Saints opened with a 15-0 run and led 21-2 after one quarter. Aquinas held a commanding 38-7 lead at halftime.
Sophomores Jenna Wilcox (four points) and Leigh DeBiasse (three) accounted for all of Lawrence's points in the first half. The Lions made just three of 16 field goals and committed 16 turnovers the first 16 minutes.
"They were really aggressive on defense and we needed to work on taking care of the ball better," said Wilcox, who finished with a team-high eight points and scored the Lions' first basket with 3:04 left in the first quarter.
LHS senior forward Emily Schwartz scored six points all in the fourth quarter. No other Lion scored more than four points.
"They came out on fire and they really, really move the ball quick," Schwartz said. "We had such a hard time keeping up with their fast break and they also play tenacious defense. They are so aggressive and got into the passing lanes."
Lawrence's underclassmen produced 21 of the 28 points. Freshmen and sophomores accounted for 19 points.
"I think next year we're going to improve a lot," Wilcox said. "We have a lot of young people on the team who are going to step up."
Aquinas' Ebony Haliburton (15 points), Carolyn McCullough (14) and Melissa Watkins (13) joined Wenski in double-figures.
The Saints led by as many as 49 points late in the third quarter (61-12) and early in the final period (67-18).
The Lions' final record of 3-18 ranks as the worst in the program's 30-year history. LHS closed with 14 consecutive losses.