Dominant defensively, Lions roll past Olathe North

During a timeout in the second quarter, Lawrence High’s girls basketball players broke the huddle and walked back onto the floor with smiles on their faces. As fast as it took them to walk to the bench, they were already back on the floor.

When they were playing as well as they were in the first half, there wasn’t anything that coach Jeff Dickson needed to tell them.

The Lions didn’t allow a point for nearly 10 minutes against Olathe North, dominating with their defense in a 50-26 victory at LHS for their fifth straight victory. Dickson called it the best team defense they’ve played all season.

In one rapid-fire, 30-second stretch in the second quarter, the Lions forced four straight turnovers in a 10-0 run following a layup by junior Chisom Ajekwu. Seniors E’lease Stafford and Talima Harjo both stole passes in the backcourt and proceeded to drill 3-pointers.

“We worked a lot on defensive drills in practice,” said Harjo, who had 14 points, six steals and four assists. “We just stayed together. We kept talking and trusted each other. We really trusted each other.”

For the Lions (11-3, 5-2 in Sunflower League) to take the next step as a team, they said they needed to improve their defense. Against Olathe North, they had aggressive double teams in the post and didn’t overplay passing lanes looking for steals. Ajekwu, the 6-foot-3 center, blocked four shots.

Olathe North (4-10, 2-5) missed its first 17 shots from the field and committed 15 turnovers in the first half. Lawrence scored the first 13 points and led by as many 27 in the first half.

“That was really exciting for us because I thought we were communicating,” Dickson said. “I thought we were talking, doing all the little things that we haven’t always done.”

Playing against a zone defense, the Lions immediately looked inside for their forwards Ajekwu (nine points, eight rebounds) and junior Sammy Williams (four points). That just set up open looks from the outside where Harjo, Stafford and junior point guard Hannah Stewart combined on eight 3-pointers.

Stafford scored 10 of her game-high 17 points in the second quarter, assisting on three other baskets by Harjo.

“I’ve been with Talima since my freshman year,” said Stafford, who added nine rebounds and two steals. “Having her by my side, like my wingman, us just working together, talking and having fun going out there and putting on a show is really fun.”

Looking to return to the Class 6A state tournament for the second straight season, Dickson said the Lions “have got to play way better defense” than how they’ve performed earlier this year.

The Lions will travel to Olathe West at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Olathe North (26)

Hope Watts 2-4 0-0 5, Lexi Carter 1-3 0-2 2, Jhirya Brock 1-7 0-0 2, Diana Langat 0-6 0-0 0, Leyanna McGinnis 1-6 3-6 5, Sireen Kenana 0-5 6-8 6, Jordan Farmer 1-2 0-0 2, Vivian Richardson 0-1 0-0 0, Nellie Rowden 2-4 0-0 2. Totals 8-38 9-16 26.

Lawrence (50)

Hannah Stewart 1-9 0-0 3, Leslie Ostronic 0-3 0-0 0, Talima Harjo 5-12 0-0 14, E’lease Stafford 6-14 2-3 17, Chisom Ajekwu 4-10 1-2 9, Sammy Williams 2-3 0-0 4, Tyrin Cosey 0-1 0-0 0, Asia Goodwin 0-5 1-2 1, Ella Stewart 1-1 0-0 2, Sophie DeWitt 0-0 0-0 0, Oze Ajekwu 0-1 0-0 0, Evann Seratte 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 19-59 4-7 50.

O-North 0 10 7 9–26

Lawrence 13 23 8 6–50

3-point goals: O-North 1-5 (Watts); Lawrence 8-26 (Harjo 4, Stafford 3, H. Stewart). Fouled out: None. Turnovers: O-North 22, Lawrence 14.