Overland Park St. Thomas Aquinas junior DaShawn Harden has been committed to Kansas University since her freshman year of high school.
Friday night, during the semifinals of the Lady Saints Classic, Harden looked like she’d been playing for the Jayhawks for years.
Behind 18 points and 10 steals from their star, the Saints defeated Lawrence High, 62-35, to move on to today’s championship game.
“(Harden) alone … she took us out of everything we wanted to do,” LHS coach Nick Wood said. “Leading up to the game, we stressed to the girls that they had to be locked in and that we needed to be the ones who brought the intensity to them. But she didn’t let us do that.”
Harden was tenacious in the passing lanes, strong with the ball every time she had it and devastating with her jump shot. She finished 8-of-10 from the floor — including swishing her only three-pointer — and added six rebounds and three assists to her stat line before the night was finished.
“She’s a great player,” LHS senior Cassie Potter said. “She read everyone’s eyes and never stopped working.”
Once again, a slow start crippled the Lions. LHS trailed 16-5 after one quarter and 23-5 midway through the second. Still, the Lions closed the gap to 12 by halftime and entered the second half with an encouraging feeling.
“I felt like we got our butts kicked in the first half,” Wood said. “But we were still only down 12. We told the girls that we were still in it and that, if we could just start doing some of what we do well, we’d get back in the game. But then we came out in the third quarter, and it was the same thing as the first.”
Aquinas pushed its lead to as many as 21 points in the third quarter before cruising to the easy victory.
The loss drops LHS (1-2) into today’s third-place game and sends the Lions back to the drawing board in search of answers. Although they may not have everything figured out just yet, Potter and fellow-senior Haley Parker walked away from Friday’s loss with a better understanding of what needed to change.
“We’re used to having seniors around to do the scoring,” Potter said. “But we’re seniors now, and we need to start stepping up and taking care of that. If the seniors can get at least 10 points apiece each game, we’ll be tough to beat.”
Added Parker: “Our sophomore year, when we won state, we kind of just let things come to us and tried to play our roles. We can’t do that anymore. Now we have to make it happen and let other players play their roles.”
Friday’s loss was the third straight game the Lions have played without senior Jordyn Tolefree. Tolefree has been out due to an injury and is not expected to return before the winter break. Still, after Friday’s game, she was the first player to address the team in the locker room.
“That’s good,” Wood said. “We need that because we’re not where we need to be right now. But we’re going to get there. We’re too talented to not start heading in the right direction. The good news, though, is that we’re not losing because of a lack of effort.”