Bri Anglin, Christina Haswood and Mutiyat Hameed all were part of Lawrence High’s girls basketball program last year, but this season has brought them new challenges and responsibilities.
As juniors, both Haswood and Anglin were Lions role players, and Hameed was rarely called upon at the varsity level. As LHS coach Nick Wood put it, leadership wasn’t part of what they were asked to bring to the floor everyday.
Now that the trio makes up Lawrence’s small senior class, expectations have changed significantly. The varsity schedule can be a grind, and it has been up to the three seniors to guide a team that currently utilizes four juniors, two sophomores and two freshmen.
“They had to learn how to be vocal leaders and leaders by example,” Wood said. “A lot of our girls needed to be able to look up to somebody who’s been through that battle before.”
Anglin said Wood, who first started coaching the Class of 2012 when they were sophomores, has helped shape them into leaders.
“The younger girls really look up to us,” the senior post player said, “and I know I looked up to the seniors when I was a sophomore.”
So when a young player is struggling with something at a practice or game, Hameed said it is up to one of the LHS seniors to step in and lead them in the right direction.
“The young ones, they don’t know,” Hameed said. “They haven’t been at this level before.”
One of the biggest challenges the Lions seniors have encountered is a pair of winless droughts. Twice this season, LHS (6-13) has suffered through five-game losing streaks. When the team has gone through those frustrating stretches, Wood said it is hard on players and coaches alike, because they put in a lot of work. Not seeing results for that work can suck the life out of a team.
“We need that senior presence in the locker room when things aren’t going well,” Wood said.
The urgency for winning will no doubt increase, with just days left in the regular season. Haswood said it wasn’t until she, Anglin and Hameed were posing for some Senior Night photos that it hit her — their days competing at the high school level are numbered.
“It hasn’t been a reality until this week,” Haswood said. “It just makes me sad.”
Nothing would make her and the rest of the Lions happier than to knock off Free State in their final home game, at 5:30 p.m. on Friday. That goes not only for the seniors, but also juniors Monica Howard, Anna Wright, Bri Anderson and Kylie Seaman, sophomores Kionna Coleman and Sami Buffalomeat and freshmen Marissa Pope and Jolana Shield.
The mere thought of an LHS upset against Free State brought a huge smile to Anglin’s face — “I would love to get that win,” she said.
Wood, too, acknowledged a Lawrence victory in the City Showdown would mean “everything” to the team. The whole season would seem like a success for the Lions if they were able to pull it off.
“Finding a way to do that is going to be a difficult thing,” Wood said, “because obviously they’re extremely talented.”
The LHS coach said his team will have to do a great job on Free State’s shooters, not allowing anyone to get hot, and keep the Firebirds out of transition.
But that’s just half of the equation. “Offensively, we have to find a way to score,” Wood said, “and when we get good scoring opportunities, take advantage of them and finish them.”
Haswood said the Lions are looking forward to facing their rivals again, after losing 64-47 at FSHS on Dec. 16.
“Emotions are gonna be so high. You definitely don’t need motivation,” Haswood said. “It’s the best Senior Night game you can play.”