Lawrence High’s girls basketball team will have a new identity when it opens sub-state play at 7 tonight on the road against Olathe East.
Junior point guard Marissa Pope is going to be back at the helm after missing four games with a left foot injury. She returned off the bench in Friday’s loss to Free State.
“It feels amazing,” said Pope, who was second in the Sunflower League with 5.5 assists per game before her injury. “It was really frustrating sitting on the bench and having to watch my team fight. But it feels really good to be back.”
Pope, a shifty 5-foot-3 guard who can drill threes and drive to the basket at ease, said she didn’t think she would be cleared by her doctor to play before the end of the season. She struggled in her first game back, scoring seven points on 2-of-13 shooting.
LHS coach Nick Wood said Pope’s return was like “Christmas Day,” as she brings an extra dynamic to LHS’s offense.
“She brings leadership,” Wood said. “She does something that not too many other players in the Sunflower League can do, she has the ability to break down a defense and create shots for the other girls. As a coach you can’t really draw that up.”
Freshman Skylar Drum filled in during Pope’s absence with plenty of positive reviews. Now the two can work together to distribute the ball in the paint to senior forwards Kionna Coleman and Makayla Bell or three-point specialist Jolona Shield.
“I think it takes the pressure off of Skylar and just gives (the team) a little more confidence because we have a ball handler back and (Drum) doesn’t have to go out of her comfort zone anymore,” Pope said.
The Lions (6-14) lost to Olathe East (11-9, ranked No. 10 in class 6A by the Kansas Basketball Coaches Association) on Jan. 10 at home in their lone regular season meeting. Olathe East rallied from a six-point halftime deficit for a 44-35 win as LHS shot 6-for-19 from the free throw line.
“We know we can play with them,” Wood said. “We know we can be competitive in the game. It just comes down to our mentality.”
FSHS girls host opener
Free State High’s girls basketball team’s win over LHS on Friday had big implications. Not only was it a rivalry win, but it also clinched a home game for sub-state.
The Firebirds will play host to Wichita East (8-12) at 7 p.m. today. After opening the season with a 1-4 record at home, Free State has won four of its last six games at FSHS.
“It’s huge because our goal is absolutely to win two games this week,” Firebirds coach Bryan Duncan said. “We’re not just interested in trying to win one game and be happy. To win two games, that home game makes a tremendous difference.”
If the Firebirds lost Friday, there would have been a coin flip to determine whether FSHS and Wichita East hosted the first sub-state game.
“That’s really nice to play in front of a crowd with my family and friends once again,” senior Maren Kahler said. “I’m really excited about that.”
The Firebirds (9-11) are 3-3 in their last six games, and they aren’t pleased with those results. In two of the three losses, they’ve been within three points early in the fourth quarter.
“I feel like we’ve been getting progressively better in January and February but we definitely had a couple of downers in our two games before Lawrence High,” Duncan said. “Not just because we lost but the way we played. I’m hoping that gets us back on track with the performance we had on Friday night.”