Slow start dooms LHS girls in final game of regular season
OLATHE — Since the first game of the season, the Lawrence High girls basketball team has understood the importance of a strong start.
A slow beginning doomed Lawrence in the season opener against Topeka High, spoiling the team’s goal of winning every home game this year. In the final contest of the 2018-19 regular season, the Lions were unable to overcome another sluggish effort out of the gate.
Olathe South (No. 7 in Class 6A) scored 18 points in the first quarter en route to a 50-38 victory over Lawrence Thursday night at Olathe South.
“You can’t dig a hole against a team that good on their Senior Night,” LHS head coach Jeff Dickson said. “It is one of those things where you play a team like that, they expose the things you don’t like.”
The Lions (11-9, 6-6 Sunflower League) have shown what they can do when they get out to an early lead. Just three days ago, LHS did just that to earn a victory over Olathe Northwest, which marked the team’s first victory over a ranked foe this season.
But Thursday’s regular-season finale proved what can happen if LHS gets into an early deficit. The Falcons (16-4, 10-2) never trailed, jumping out to an 18-12 lead in the opening period.
On offense, Lawrence was actually hitting its shots. Seniors Hannah Stewart, who scored a team-high 12 points, and Leslie Ostronic both cashed in on a 3-pointer in the first quarter. Senior Chisom Ajekwu, who finished with 10 points, fought through double teams to net a pair of buckets.
LHS missed just three shots in the first eight minutes, though it coughed up six turnovers.
“We have been a team all year long, that when we get behind and somebody spreads the floor on us, we can’t play big,” Dickson said. “We dug our way back into the game, but they started hitting shots. I thought the effort was there.”
For the rest of the night, the Lions were playing catch up against a talented team.
To Lawrence’s credit, though, the visitors never gave up. Freshman Layla Harjo and junior Ella Stewart each drilled a triple in the third quarter to stay within striking distance. Sophomore Ozi Ajekwu provided valuable interior minutes. Seniors Sammy Williams and Evann Seratte made contributions on the defensive end.
Olathe South’s lead proved to be too much to overcome, however. For good measure, the Falcons ate up clock on offensive possessions throughout the second half. Junior Dani Winslow finished with a game-high 16 points for the hosts, while senior Caroline Harshbarger tallied 15 points.
“I do think we did a nice job of coming back,” Dickson said. “We gave ourselves some chances, but we have to continue to get better. If we don’t play better than that, then our season is over next Thursday.”
It was just the latest test for the Lions during a daunting stretch to close out the regular season.
LHS might be more prepared than just about any other team in the postseason after playing three ranked teams in the final four games. Lawrence, which is the No. 7 seed in the 6A West bracket, will now play host to No. 10 Wichita Southeast at 6 p.m. Thursday for the first round of sub-state.
“I think our kids have found out that sometimes we can play some teams and make mistakes,” Dickson said. “When you play these type of teams, you can’t do that.”
Hannah Stewart 5-10 0-2 12, Leslie Ostronic 2-3 0-0 5, Sammy Williams 0-0 0-0 0, Evann Seratte 0-2 0-0 0, Chisom Ajekwu 5-11 0-4 10, Ella Stewart 1-3 1-2 4, Sophie DeWitt 0-2 0-1 0, Ozi Ajekwu 1-3 2-3 4, Layla Harjo 1-1 0-0 3. Totals: 15-35 3-12 38.
OLATHE SOUTH (50)
Izzy Pierce 1-3 2-2 4, Lydia Rhoades 0-1 0-0 0, Kate schmidt 1-3 0-0 3, Caroline Harshbarger 5-11 2-2 15, Dani Winslow 8-16 0-0 16, Reagan Ponzer 0-4 0-0 0, Raegan Halliday 2-4 1-1 5, Sophie Reed 2-6 0-0 5, Mandy Truitt 0-1 2-2 2. Totals: 19-49 7-7 50.
Lawrence 12 4 13 9 — 38
Olathe S 18 7 18 7 — 50
3-point goals: LHS 5-8 (H. Stewart 2, Ostronic, E. Stewart, Harjo); OS 5-16 (Schmidt, Harshbarger 3, Reed). Turnovers: LHS 14; OS 6. Fouled out: None.