OLATHE — E’lease Stafford can drive and she can shoot. She’s an improved defender and she’s learned how to let her voice be heard on both ends of the court.
But it’s what she hasn’t done — yet — that should terrify Lawrence High opponents the most.
“I don’t think I’ve had my best game yet,” Stafford said following the Lions’ 65-40 win at Olathe West, the team's sixth straight win overall. “I know there’s more to come.”
Forget about the ho-hum 23 points she scored on Tuesday. Forget about the three 3-pointers, her steal and basket in a 14-0 first-quarter run and the three straight buckets she hit in the third quarter before assisting a teammate the following possession.
And forget about how easy she makes it on coach Jeff Dickson in the process.
“She’s our coach on the floor,” said Dickson. “You (media) are watching the game, but I’m sitting down watching the game just like you are. Because she’s taking care of all those things.
"She’s just a really tough cover. When she’s on, you better strap it on, because she’s coming."
While Stafford took care of business, so too did the rest of the team.
The Lions (12-3, 6-2 in league) used an early 14-0 run to take control of the game. The Owls opened the second quarter with a 3-pointer, but Talima Harjo responded, hitting a deep shot of her own to put LHS up 19-5.
The teams traded baskets to finish the quarter, but Stafford added 11 more points in the third, nearly outscoring her teammates (12 points) and the Owls (13) over the same span.
“We wanted to refocus to get reenergized at halftime. Our upperclassmen, our starters wanted to draw a line in the sand,” Dickson said. “We’ve been really focused on trying to shut people down and shut people out. So I think we came out in the … third quarter with that mindset.”
LHS dominated the game defensively, holding its opponent to 15-for-57 shooting (26.3 percent) and only sending the Owls to the line for four free throws.
The frenetic pace of the game led to both teams settling for outside jumpers in transition, but the Lions were able to hold the Owls to just five made 3-pointers on 23 attempts while making one more shot (six) on four fewer attempts (19).
The Lions held 5-10 junior Ayiana Uhde to 1 for 10 shooting from the field and forced 5-2 freshman Allysa Moore, the first Owl off the bench, to miss all seven of her shot attempts.
"(Stafford's) willingness to being coached on the defensive end of things, her really buying into trying to quarterback that group, a lot of our defensive talking comes from her," Dickson said. "It's one of the reasons why we've hit this late run. Our defense has gotten better. She's a big reason why."
As for her teammates, no other LHS player reached double figures in scoring, but Harjo finished the game with nine points while Chisom Ajekwu and Asia Goodwin scored eight apiece.
Sammy Williams provided valuable bench minutes, locking down the paint and coming up with several tough boards, while the Lions were even able to play much of the fourth quarter with some non-regulars in the game.
"I thought we played with a lot of good energy and a lot of intensity," Dickson said. "When we do that, we're pretty tough."
Hannah Stewart 1-3 1-2 3, Leslie Ostronic 1-6 1-1 3, Talima Harjo 4-12 0-0 9, E’lease Stafford 10-18 0-0 23, Chisom Ajekwu 4-8 0-0 8, Sammy Williams 2-3 0-0 4, Tyrin Cosey 2-3 0-0 5, Asia Goodwin 3-9 1-1 8, Ella Stewart 0-1 0-0 0, Oze Ajekwu 1-1 0-0 2, Sophie DeWitt 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 28-65 3-4 65.
Olathe West (40)
Anaiya Uhde 4-8 0-1 10, Mackenzie Hart 1-5 0-0 3, Michelle Anderson 5-10 1-1 13, Bailey Collar 6-15 0-0 12, Ayiana Uhde 1-10 0-0 2, Allysa Moore 0-7 0-0 0, Syd Loveless 0-1 0-0 0, Macy Glover 0-3 0-0 0, Megan Geyer 0-0 0-2 0, Naleah Garry 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 17-57 1-4 40.
Lawrence 16 12 23 14 — 65
O-West 2 15 13 10 — 40
Three-point goals: Lawrence 6-19 (Stafford 3, Harjo, Cosey Goodwin 1); O-West 5-23 (Uhde, Anderson 2, Hart 1). Fouled out: none. Turnovers: Lawrence 10, O-West 10.