Emporia Lawrence High girls basketball coach Kristin Mallory knows all about playing up the revenge angle to motivate players.
It was a model Mallory used with her Lions to help defeat Blue Valley High, 59-48, in the first round of the Class 6A state tournament on Wednesday - six weeks after LHS lost to the Tigers in the regular season.
When seventh-seeded Lawrence (19-4) meets No. 3 Olathe South (21-2) in the tournament's first semifinal matchup at 3 p.m. today, the roles will be reversed.
Eight weeks ago, the Falcons dropped an early-season Sunflower League contest to the Lions, 63-56, in the LHS gym. Olathe South has not lost a game since, winning 14 in a row.
"Obviously, it's a team we know we can beat," Mallory said. "But at the same time, they're going to have that revenge factor just like we did against Blue Valley. We're going to have to play well and execute."
Mallory said her team's biggest adjustments between Blue Valley and Olathe South would occur on defense.
Against the Tigers, Lawrence - winner of six straight games - played a triangle-and-two defense with the intent of stopping just two of Blue Valley's players. But that won't work against the Falcons, according to Mallory.
"Olathe South is the kind of team that all five of their players can score at any time," Mallory said. "So, we're definitely going to have to account for everybody."
The Falcons displayed their balanced attack in a 42-31 victory over No. 6 Dodge City in the first round of the state tournament.
While Kelsey Balcom led Olathe South with 10 points, guard Alyssa Rhodes dished out nine assists to only one turnover. Natalie Knight, who moved up from the freshman team and didn't play against Lawrence in the teams' first matchup, added nine points.
And that is without mentioning the Falcons' best player, Jadhken Kerr, who tallied 17 points against the Lions eight weeks ago.
"She scores in a variety of ways," Mallory said of Kerr. "She's not the type of player where you can eliminate her from the ballgame. She'll get a silent 12 on you."
The Lions, too, boast quite a few offensive weapons.
Danielle Bird and Haley Parker each scored 17 points against Blue Valley, and Cassie Potter added 12.
Parker scored 16 against the Falcons in the teams' last meeting, and forward Tania Jackson had 12.
Mallory said being the seventh seed at state had made it easier for the Lions to relax.
It certainly doesn't hurt already to have a victory against Olathe South in their back pockets.
"The pressure isn't on us, except for in our own eyes," she said. "We felt like we always deserved to be here. The girls showed that (Wednesday), and hopefully we'll respond again (today)."