Their regularly scheduled games may have been canceled, but that did not stop the Lawrence High boys and girls basketball teams from playing four quarters each on Friday.
With their Sunflower League contests at Olathe North called off because of the cold, the LHS boys and girls staged their own games on Friday afternoon. In both cases — and in both gyms — Lawrence High coaches Nick Wood (girls) and Mike Lewis (boys) set up their gyms for game play. Benches were out, scoreboards were on and makeshift officials — assistant coaches for both teams — controlled the action.
“We’re doing the best we can to simulate a game,” Lewis said. “It’s disappointing that we’re not playing because we’ve been practicing since Dec. 28 and the boys need to play a game. We’d love for it to be against another team, but we’ll do the best we can against ourselves.”
The timing of the cancellation was particularly poor for the Lions. Their last game — a 50-45 loss to Free State High — was played on Dec. 19. Their next game, provided the weather cooperates, will be played on Jan. 12. That’s nearly a month of practicing between games. Even though they appeared to be amped up about the impromptu scrimmage, some of the LHS players admitted that practicing so much without playing a live game can get old.
“It’s a downer,” senior Marcus Ray said. “We think we’re ready to go and we’re all fired up to play and then we find out we don’t get to. It’s frustrating.”
Like the boys, the LHS girls have gone through a similar stretch without live action. They, too, were disappointed about their fate this week but found a way to look at the silver lining.
“I was actually looking forward to going to school so that we could play,” junior Rachel Kelly said. “We all wanted to play. But since we don’t get to, we just have to look at it as us getting one more day of practice that we can use to get better.”
For at least one member of the LHS girls team, the news wasn’t all that heartbreaking.
“I knew we weren’t going to play,” senior starter Cassie Potter said. “So I wasn’t going to get my hopes up. It’s snow. It’s something we have to live with, and there’s nothing we can do about it.”
That’s where the idea to unveil their own games came from. Both Lewis and Wood conceded that they understood how draining so many consecutive practices could become. But they also admitted to some element of personal gain from scheduling the scrimmages.
“It’s frustrating because I think we’re in a really good spot,” Wood said. “The girls have worked hard during the break. They really responded great to what we asked them to do in order for us to get better. So they deserve to get out there and play, but at the same time, I need to see them out there so I can see exactly where we’re at.”
The good news for Wood’s crew, which stands at 1-5 overall, is that they should enter the next portion of their schedule with a completely healthy Jordyn Tolefree. Tolefree, a senior who missed a handful of games before break because of a leg injury, returned for the final few contests but was not 100 percent. Prior to Friday’s scrimmage, Tolefree’s smile and energy indicated that she was near full strength.
As for the LHS boys (0-6), Ray said he believed his squad was ready to turn the corner and finally break through for that first victory, which would also be the first of Lewis’s career.
“We had a good break,” Ray said. “I think people are starting to find their roles and the team’s really starting to come together.”
Although disappointment from having to wait five more days to play their next game was a common theme throughout both gymnasiums Friday, Wood pointed out one more advantage to waiting the extra few days.
“I’m glad we get to play next Tuesday and don’t have to wait until Friday,” Wood said. “And to top it all off, we’ll finally be playing at home.”
LHS’s boys and girls will play host to Shawnee Mission North next Tuesday. Free State, meanwhile, which also had its Friday games canceled — but had the luxury of playing earlier in the week — also will return to the hardwood on Tuesday with home games against Shawnee Mission Northwest.