LHS girls suffer 55-39 loss to Topeka High in season opener

photo by: Carter Gaskins

Lawrence High senior Hannah Stewart (1) races past Topeka High's Lilly Smith (5) on a loose ball early in the third quarter Friday night at LHS.

For the first time in a few years, the Lawrence High girls basketball team will face some adversity.

The Lions had become accustomed to strong starts, a feat that they accomplished during each of the last two seasons en route to posting a 35-10 overall record. LHS did not drop a game before winter break last year, winning its first five games out of the gate.

This season, though, Lawrence will begin with an 0-1 mark after trailing for the duration of its 55-39 defeat to Topeka High in Friday’s season opener at LHS.

“This will be the first time that this group has faced adversity since they were freshmen, when they lost three or four right off the bat,” LHS head coach Jeff Dickson said. “They had a huge goal to go undefeated at home, and now that is gone in Game 1. We have a lot of work to do.”

The Trojans (1-0) are no slouch, however. They returned a majority of their starters from last year, and added a key piece in freshman NiJaree Canada, who is already getting interest from collegiate programs.

Canada, a 6-foot forward, helped set the tone early by knocking down a triple within the first minute of the game. Topeka High took advantage of Lawrence’s man defense through the first eight minutes, scoring 22 points in the opening period.

photo by: Carter Gaskins

Lawrence High senior Leslie Ostronic (4) dribbles past Topeka High’s Lilly Smith (5) Friday night at LHS.

Trailing 22-13, the Lions switched to a zone defense to start the second quarter and it helped keep them in the game. Junior Sophie DeWitt scored six unanswered points midway through the second period, including a 3-pointer to pull within five points.

The Trojans then closed the half out with an 11-6 run to take a 37-27 advantage at the intermission. The Lions never quit, but trailed by double digits for the rest of the second half.

“I think we got really exposed tonight as a team,” Dickson said. “Once we get behind, we are going to really struggle. You can spread the floor on us, and we have a hard time keeping up with you. That’s one of those things where we are going to have to come ready to play.”

Lawrence, which was ranked No. 8 in Class 6A via the preseason coaches poll, has the veterans to help get things corrected.

Senior Chisom Ajekwu, a KU signee, has started the past three seasons along with senior guard Hannah Stewart. Ajekwu scored a team-high nine points in the loss, while Stewart added five points.

Seniors Sammy Williams, Leslie Ostronic and Evann Seratte have been with the program through its highs and lows, as well.

“I’m not going to make excuses, because we have enough experience to play way better than that,” Dickson said. “Anything that we didn’t do well is because I didn’t do a good enough job preparing us for today.”

Regardless, Friday’s result did not deter Dickson’s belief in what his team is capable of.

“I think we have a championship-level team,” Dickson said. “We need to get back to having championship-level practice and championship-level effort.”

LHS will travel to Hayden at 7 p.m. Tuesday.

Topeka (55)

Laryn Murray 3-4 1-2 8, Talayah Thomas 3-7 0-0 8, Jaryn Benning 4-9 0-2 8, JaNeysha Hendricks 2-7 0-0 4, NiJaree Canady 6-19 1-4 14, Lilly Smith 3-11 2-2 11, Phoenix Michaelis 0-2 0-0 0, Tionna German 1-1 0-0 2. Totals: 22-60 4-10 55.

Lawrence (39)

Hannah Stewart 2-8 0-0 5, Leslie Ostronic 1-1 0-0 2, Ella Stewart 1-9 6-6 8, Sammy Williams 0-3 2-2 2, Chisom Ajekwu 4-11 1-5 9, Evann Seratte 1-3 1-3 3, Sophie DeWitt 1-4 3-4 6, Paiden Bell 0-0 0-1 0, Ozi Ajekwu 2-3 0-0 4, Layla Harjo 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 12-44 13-21 39.

Topeka 22 15 8 10 — 55

Lawrence 13 14 7 5 — 39

Three-point goals: Topeka 7-22 (Murray, Thomas 2, Canady, Smith 3); Lawrence 2-13 (Stewart, DeWitt). Turnovers: Topeka 8, Lawrence 16.

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