Even though Topeka Washburn Rural had the best player on the floor Thursday, Lawrence High’s girls basketball team wasn’t interested in conceding its first-round game to the Blues at the Firebird Winter Classic.
The Lions’ scrappy approach and unsettling defense limited WRHS and junior point guard Erika Lane for almost three quarters before turnovers cost LHS a chance to pull off an upset, and Rural hung on for a 46-34 victory.
Lawrence coach Nick Wood said he knew the Lions (4-6) would have to slow down Lane, who finished with nine points, to have a chance.
“She’s one of the best players in the state,” the coach said.
Lane actually scored all nine of her points in the first three quarters, but it wasn’t until late that she started breaking down LHS defenders off the dribble and setting up her teammates for open baskets.
“We had done a really good job (up to that point),” Wood said.
While Lawrence’s defense helped it keep up with WRHS (8-3) most of the night, the Lions’ offensive woes hurt them in the final minutes.
“We didn’t get that same energy on the offensive end that we did on the defensive end,” Wood said.
LHS turned the ball over five times in the fourth quarter while connecting on two of its six shots.
“We had 12 turnovers in the second half, and it just killed us,” Wood said. “It wasn’t necessarily anything they were doing. It was just kind of self-inflicted stuff.”
Down only five points entering the fourth quarter, Lawrence cut the deficit to 35-32 in the opening minute, when Kylie Seaman stole the ball and took it the length of the floor for a layup. But the Lions wouldn’t score again until 1:57 remained in the game and Kionna Coleman managed a bucket in the paint. Even after that basket, Rural maintained a comfortable 10-point lead.
The Lions were down after the loss, because they had actually taken a lead twice in the second half. Anna Wright cashed in a three-pointer early in the third quarter to put LHS up, 24-23. After the Blues re-gained the lead, Christina Haswood momentarily gave Lawrence a 27-26 advantage with 4:35 to go in the third.
However, from that point on, Rural outscored Lawrence 20-7.
Wood said the Lions simply didn’t show enough ingenuity when they had the ball.
“We were standing too much on offense,” he said. “Our energy level wasn’t where it needed to be.”
Wright led LHS with eight points. Coleman and Haswood scored six apiece, and Monica Howard finished with five.
At 4:45 p.m. today, Lawrence will play Blue Valley West in a consolation semifinal.
— Check out Benton Smith's "Prep Appraisals" from the game.