LHS girls crush Topeka in opener, 52-28

TOPEKA — With the way Lawrence High junior center Chisom Ajekwu drew double teams against Topeka in the low post Friday, it opened up shots and driving lanes for other LHS players.

Lawrence seniors E’lease Stafford and Talima Harjo combined for 29 points, helping the girls basketball team earn a 52-28 road victory at Topeka in the team’s season opener.

Leading by double-digits for the entire third quarter, the Lions went on a 17-0 run throughout a six-minute stretch in the final period.

“(Chisom) has a huge advantage in this league just because she’s so big and talented,” said Stafford, who has signed to play at East Tennessee State. “It gives us a huge advantage because we can all shoot, drive, put it on the floor and get to the basket.

Each time the Lions tried to pass the ball into the post for the 6-foot-3 Ajekwu, she was immediately greeted by a wave of defenders. She was limited to only one shot in the first half, but Ajekwu made the most of her opportunities on the defensive end.

The Trojans went the final 5:42 of the first quarter without a point against the Lions’ full-court pressure that transformed into a zone with Ajekwu guarding the paint, shooting 17 percent throughout the night. Ajekwu had six blocks, four steals and 11 rebounds.

“I thought that was one of the best games she’s played,” Lawrence coach Jeff Dickson said of Ajekwu, who added eight points, six in the second half.

The Lions pulled away with an 8-0 run in the final two minutes of the second quarter. Senior guard Asia Goodwin scored on back-to-back possessions before Stafford converted on a layup and put-back for a 26-17 lead.

Dealing with injuries, they were without Hannah Stewart and Sammy Williams, which meant Lawrence played with only eight players. Stafford scored a game-high 18 points and grabbed six rebounds, while Goodwin had nine points and three steals.

“I was so proud of those girls with the way that they stuck together and they gutted it out,” Dickson said. “That was, what I felt like, is more of an example of our mental toughness than I’ve seen in the last couple of years. Super proud of senior leadership.”

The Lions will play host to Topeka Hayden at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday in their home opener.

Lawrence (52)

Leslie Ostronic 1-3 0-0 2, Talima Harjo 4-11 2-5 11, Tyrin Cosey 1-3 2-4 4, E’lease Stafford 8-20 1-2 18, Chisom Ajekwu 3-10 2-3 8, Asia Goodwin 3-8 3-9 9, Ella Stewart 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 20-56 10-23 52.

Topeka (28)

Jasmine Wheeler 0-6 2-2 2, Morgan Carranza 1-4 0-0 3, Jaryn Benning 3-11 1-2 8, Kyia McWilliams 0-6 2-2 2, Kalyn Sales 0-3 2-2 2, Laryn Murray 0-4 0-4 0, Ja’Neysha Hendricks 2-9 0-2 4, Sierra Stanley 0-2 0-0 0, Ashley Chestnut 0-0 0-0 0, Lilly Smith 3-7 0-0 7, Zoe Caryl 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 9-52 7-14 28.

Lawrence 9 17 9 17 — 52

Topeka 6 11 7 4 — 28

Three-point goals: Lawrence 2-17 (Harjo, Stafford); Topeka 3-23 (Carranza, Benning, Smith). Turnovers: Lawrence 19, Topeka 26.