Today, Lawrence High's girls basketball team arrives at Emporia for the Glacier's Edge Invitational. By the time the Lions leave on Saturday, coach Nick Wood wants them to be a better team than they were headed into the tournament.
The three-day trip could prove to be a critical stretch for LHS (2-6), which faces Topeka Seaman in the first round tonight at 7. Lawrence hoped to have sophomore point guard Marissa Pope back in the lineup by now, but her injured right foot continues to bother her and she will be out at least three more weeks.
While the absence of Pope hurts, the Lions at least have someone new to help fill that void. Sophomore Imani Simmons, a transfer from Shawnee Heights, played her first game as a Lion in Friday's 64-25 victory over Kansas City, Kan., Wyandotte.
"Hopefully this weekend," Wood said, "we'll come out of it having an idea of who we are with this group."
Junior LHS forward Kionna Coleman said the Emporia tournament should provide the team with a chance to get used to playing with Simmons.
"She's a great addition to our team. She really knows how to handle the ball well," said Coleman, who averages 15 points and 7.8 rebounds. "We just need to get everybody flowing on the same path."
That could be difficult, particularly against Seaman (8-2), the tournament's top seed and the No. 8-ranked team in Class 5A.
Said Wood: "Seaman's one of the best teams in the state, but that's kind of typical for our schedule. Everybody we play is extremely good."
Of course, Coleman said the Lions want to knock off the Vikings tonight and accomplish some goals this weekend, before they return to Sunflower League competition.
"We need to focus on playing hard the whole, entire game and fighting through tiredness and just working together, keeping each other focused," Coleman said.
Among the Lions' biggest concerns, she added, is their ball handling.
"That's what beats us a lot in games," Coleman said. "We have so many turnovers."
It has been difficult at times this season for LHS to run its offense, but Coleman said the Lions need to be more aggressive as a group.
"Everybody needs to put up more shots," she said. "The more we shoot, the more chances we have to score."