There is a reason bracket announcements are sometimes accompanied with trepidation for basketball coaches and players.
When Class 6A sub-state tournament parings were unveiled, Lawrence High’s girls basketball team drew one of the toughest assignments possible.
There weren’t too many teams looking forward to playing Olathe South (18-2), ranked No. 5 in 6A. But that’s the challenge that awaits the Lions when they play at O-South at 7 p.m. today.
LHS (6-14) lost in the Falcons’ gymnasium, 57-43, on Jan. 12. At the very least, Lions junior guard Anna Wright pointed out, Lawrence still has some positive memories from that game.
“The last time we played them we did relatively good,” Wright said. “It’s when we started working well as a team and things started coming together for us. I think we have a chance if we play like that again.”
That game gave the Lions confidence, and they went on to win four of their next six games. However, LHS has lost seven straight since then, and coach Nick Wood knows O-South will be difficult to topple. If Lawrence, the No. 7 seed, has any hope of knocking off the No. 2 Falcons, Wood pinpointed the one thing LHS must thwart.
“Part of their main offense is their transition offense. We have to find a way to get back on defense,” the Lions coach said. “They push the ball extremely well.”
Wright said O-South ran better than any team Lawrence played this season.
“We had a designated person to be back every time,” she said, adding the Lions might have to send two or more players back in the rematch.
The Falcon who thrives most in transition is Alex Hugo, whom Wood called one of the most athletic guards in the state.
“She runs the floor so well,” Wood said. “We have to find a way not only to get the ball stopped, but we’ve got to run back and find people quickly, because they’re coming at you. When we score, we don’t have time to celebrate or be happy for ourselves, and when we miss we don’t have time to pout about it.”
It will be up to LHS guards Wright, Marissa Pope, Christina Haswood, Kylie Seaman and Jolana Shield, as well as forwards Kionna Coleman, Monica Howard, Bri Anderson, Bri Anglin and Mutiyat Hameed, Wood said, to play their best transition defense of the season.
Other than that, the coach said, the Lions need to handle any pressure they face while limiting turnovers.
“We have to be able to find a way to slow the game down and get in the half-court,” Wood said.
The whole regular season, he added, should have prepared LHS for this game. And one game in particular could give the Lions a boost.
“Hopefully, it will help that we did go up there about a month and a half ago and played really well,” Wood said.
The winner of the game advances to a sub-state final on Friday at Leavenworth to face either No. 3 seed Free State or No. 6 Olathe North.