It felt like déjà vu for Lawrence High girls basketball coach Jeff Dickson as he watched the Lions' 16-point second-half lead dwindle down to one in the final minute against Shawnee Mission Northwest, but his team forced two late turnovers and made free throws in crunch time to hang on for a 51-45 victory.
Lawrence (13-4, No. 10 in Class 6A) coughed up a six-point lead in an overtime loss on Friday against SM West, so Dickson was glad to see the Lions dig deep to make sure lightning wouldn't strike twice.
"Chisom (Ajekwu) was able to get some rebounds late and we made enough free throws down the stretch. You would hope you would be able to hang on in a game like that," Dickson said. "It was a good opportunity for us to play against somebody that good in that kind of setting because we haven't won those games."
Lawrence High girls basketball vs. SMNW
Lawrence High's girls basketball team fended off a late charge from Shawnee Mission Northwest for a 51-45 victory over the Cougars.
The Cougars (11-6, No. 8 in 6A) had no answers for Ajekwu for the first two-and-a-half quarters. The 6-foot-3 center finished with 19 points, eight rebounds and five blocks. Tyrin Cosey, Hannah Stewart and Talima Harjo all chipped in nine points each.
"It was really nice. That was our plan initially to get it in the center," Ajewku said. "The past few games weren't my best, but I thought I improved. I told myself that this was going to be my game and I was going to play my hardest and I was going to improve so much. I wasn't going to let any of the calls affect me or anything."
The Lions pushed their 10-point halftime lead to 16 with an 8-2 run to begin the third quarter. Ajekwu went to work inside to score the Lions' first five points of the second half, and Harjo hit a 3-pointer to put LHS up 36-20 in the early stages of the third.
The lion's share of Lawrence's success came in its half-court sets with being able to pound the ball down low to Ajekwu. The Cougars turned up their defensive intensity the rest of the way, though, with full-and half-court presses that took the Lions out of their offensive rhythm.
"They played tremendous defense. They play so hard," Dickson said. "They're such a good team and rattled us big time. But I felt like sometimes we get in those situations where we tend to really hack or we get mad or frustrated and we turned it over. I thought we did a better job of settling down when we made a mistake and making them have to work on offense and not just get an easy and-1."
Junior Hannah Black highlighted the Cougars' defensive effort with three steals in the fourth. Two of the three steals led to layups, as Black scored nine of her team-high 12 points in the final quarter.
Black drained a 3-pointer with 1:18 remaining to make it a one-possession game at 46-43. After E'lease Stafford missed the front end of a 1-and-1, the Cougars then trimmed the deficit to one with a mid-range jumper from Jordann Nachbar with 29.5 to play. The Lions held off the Cougars from there, though, by making five of their final six three throws and forcing two turnovers. Leslie Ostronic and Harjo both went 2 for 2 at the charity stripe in the final minute, and Stewart made 1 of 2.
"We became the mentally tough team at the end there," Ajekwu said. "We were just playing through the pain and not letting it affect us and doing as much as we could like we knew how."
The Lions have won seven of their last eight, and will be back in action at 5:30 p.m. Friday at SM South (7-10).
"I just feel like we're out for blood now. We're not taking anything lightly," Ajekwu said. "We know what we need to do. We're at crunch time right now."
SM NORTHWEST (45)
Abby Winter 0-0 0-0 0, D'Asya Collier-Williams 2-8 1-2 5, Megan Formwalt 1-3 0-0 3, Rachel Seibold 3-5 0-0 7, Kennedy Taylor 3-9 3-5 9, Hannah Black 6-10 2-2 12, Jordann Nachbar 1-13 7-8 9, Megan Hanson 0-2 0-0 0, Sarah Petersen 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 18-51 13-17 45.
Hannah Stewart 3-9 1-2 9, Leslie Ostronic 0-3 3-4 3, Talima Harjo 3-7 2-2 9, E’lease Stafford 0-3 2-3 2, Chisom Ajekwu 9-13 1-2 19, Sammy Williams 0-3 0-0 0, Tyrin Cosey 3-3 2-3 9. Totals 18-41 11-16 51.
SM Northwest 9 9 10 17 — 45
Lawrence 13 15 10 13 — 51
3-point goals: SM Northwest 4-18 (Black 2, Seibold, Formwalt); Lawrence 4-10 (Stewart 2, Cosey, Harjo). Fouled out: Jordann Nachbar, SMNW. Turnovers: SM Northwest 14, Lawrence 14.