After three months, 21 games and countless hours of practice, only one thing stands between the Lawrence High girls basketball team and its goal of qualifying for the Class 6A state tournament.
At 7:45 tonight, in their home gym, the second-seeded LHS girls (17-4) will take on third-seeded Olathe Northwest (13-8), with the winner earning a trip to Emporia next week.
"Our girls are not going to overlook this game," LHS coach Kristin Mallory said. "They know what's at stake. They know that anybody can play with you if you don't play your best. There are no second chances this time of year."
Except, a second chance is exactly what Olathe Northwest is getting.
Lawrence opened the post-winter-break portion of its schedule with a home matchup against ONW in early January. Playing without junior Taylor Bird, the Lions ransacked the Ravens, 56-40, and improved to 6-0 at the time.
However, while fine-tuning the game plan for tonight's rematch - which included but was not limited to finding a way to slow down Northwest's Alexis Boeh (14 points, 10 rebounds per game) and twin sister Candace (11, 8) - Mallory was quick to point out that the 16-point victory in January hardly was a breeze.
"We basically beat them with one big quarter," Mallory said. "And you can't expect to score 30 points in a quarter every game."
It's also tough to expect 31, which the Lions scored in the decisive third quarter on their way to the run-away victory.
No one in the LHS locker room expects it to be easy this time around, and the Lions point to three aspects of the game as key to their chances.
"Box out, push the ball, stay out of foul trouble and basically just play our game," said sophomore guard Cassie Potter, who led LHS with 11 points in the first victory. "(Tonight) we'll play like it's just another game except we'll be a little more excited and a little more pumped up."