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Archive for Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Tait: LHS learns from loss

January 30, 2008

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My intention for this column was to spend the next 500 words or so explaining why the Lawrence High girls basketball team is a legitimate state title contender.

That's one of the reasons I went to Topeka last Saturday to watch the Lions play for the championship of the Capital City Classic.

My hope was to get a few more gametime examples to back up my ideas about how the LHS girls could win it all this year. But for three and a half quarters of LHS's contest against Blue Valley I got nothing.

LHS started fast and looked great in the early going. But at some point during the first quarter, things took a turn for the worse. The Lions looked flat. They missed shots. They struggled on defense.

At halftime, they trailed by nine points and Blue Valley was in total control.

The first couple of minutes of the second half were better, but the fast start faded again and LHS found itself in a deep hole in the fourth quarter.

That's when something clicked.

LHS turned up its intensity and in turn amped up its defense. The Lions played tough, were scrappy and found a way to get stops and score points. It was everything I expected to see at the opening tip.

In the end, the furious rally fell short and the Lions dropped their second game of the season. In doing so, however, they indirectly provided yet another reason to take them seriously come state-tourney time.

Here's the deal: LHS is loaded. The Lions have a bevy of talented scorers, play solid defense, can win in the paint or from the perimeter and have enough experience and confidence to make a run in Emporia in March. But that much we already knew.

Now, after Saturday's loss, the Lions have the knowledge that they can overcome adversity, as well.

"These are two losses we weren't expecting," LHS junior Taylor Bird said. "We learned from the last one and, in the games after that, we came out ready to play. I think that will happen this time, too."

LHS coach Kristin Mallory is banking on it. She thinks that because her girls already have responded to a loss once this season, they'll more easily buy into the idea that Saturday's setback can be a good thing in the long run.

"I think they get it only because we stepped up so well last time," said Mallory, referring to the Lions' four-game winning streak that followed their loss to Shawnee Mission East on Jan. 8. "There is no shame in losing a game. Good teams lose games and it's how you respond that determines what kind of team you are."

In a way, the LHS girls began to show that before Saturday's loss became official. Trailing by 18 points late in the game, the Lions easily could have laid down, folded up their tent and chalked up the loss to an off night. They didn't.

They scrapped and clawed their way back into the ballgame and nearly pulled off the improbable comeback.

Doing that once proves it can be done again. The key now is to avoid getting in such a hole in the first place.

"This loss is easier to swallow bu it still hurt pretty bad," sophomore Cassie Potter said. "Winning this tournament was another one of our goals. But even though we're young, we'll learn from it. This will help us tremendously, actually."

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