Shorthanded LHS girls basketball team falls to Blue Valley Northwest in opener

photo by: Chance Parker

Lawrence High sophomore Hailey Ramirez dribbles past the Olathe Northwest defender Thursday evening at LHS on Dec. 3, 2020.

An inexperienced and shorthanded Lawrence High girls basketball team was overmatched from start to finish in a 59-23 loss to Blue Valley Northwest Thursday night at LHS.

The Lions, who were without multiple potential starters and started five underclassmen, faced a 23-3 deficit after the first quarter and it all proved to be too much to overcome in their season opener.

“I thought we got frustrated early,” LHS head coach Jeff Dickson said. “We started hanging our heads a bit, and we stopped playing with the intensity that we need to play with the personnel that we have.”

LHS (0-1) was missing multiple key players due to a variety of reasons. Sophomore Amaya Marshall, the team’s starting point guard a season ago, is still recovering from an ACL injury that she sustained last year.

Lawrence was also without senior Ozi Ajekwu and sophomore Geme Ajekwu, who are not playing right now due to concerns regarding the number of COVID-19 cases, even though they both were listed on the roster. Senior Kayla Galbreath was also not available in Game 1.

All three of those LHS players are listed at 6-feet and could have helped Thursday night defending Blue Valley Northwest’s 6-foot-1 freshman Lainie Douglas, who finished with a game-high 15 points in the lopsided affair.

Instead, Lawrence’s starting rotation featured four sophomores and one freshman, with the tallest player being listed at 5-foot-9. Sophomore Hailey Ramirez, sophomore Layla Harjo, sophomore Lucy Hardy, sophomore Serenity Keo and freshman Azura Clark made up the opening rotation for LHS.

“We have to focus on what we are and not what we aren’t,” Dickson said. “The kids in that locker room, that’s our team. That’s what we are going with. We are not waiting for someone to ride up on a white horse. We know that we have to get better, and we know that we can get better.”

But Douglas and her length in the paint helped the Huskies (1-0) set the tone out of the gate.

Since there is no opening tipoff due to COVID-related precautions, Blue Valley Northwest started with the ball. The Huskies scored on the opening possession of the game on a layup by Douglas.

Douglas added another layup about 45 seconds later, which eventually led to an early timeout by Dickson. But it was a sign of things to come in a game that featured a running clock in the second half.

Blue Valley Northwest got to the rim at will against Lawrence’s defense all night. The Huskies pushed the floor for layups off turnovers by the Lions, and still emphasized getting interior buckets in half-court situations.

A 3-pointer by Keo was Lawrence’s only points in the opening period. Blue Valley Northwest started the game on a 6-0 run and closed the first quarter on a 17-0 stretch after Keo’s triple, leading to a 23-3 advantage following the opening period. Lawrence had seven of its 19 turnovers in the first quarter alone.

“We hung in there for awhile,” Dickson said. “Once we got tired, with our lack of size and lack of depth, I think that hurt us a bit.”

The story was much of the same in the second quarter before Dickson made a change in the second half. Trailing 38-19 after the intermission, the Lions switched to a zone defense and it led to more success on both ends of the floor.

Keo, Hardy and Ramirez all made multiple strong drives to the rim. Clark found her footing in the post to provide solid play on defense. Jayden Wilson, Brecken Ostronic, Morgann Haaga, Cree Stewart, Daphne Bracker Sturm and Cadence Johnson all brought energy off the bench even though most of them didn’t have much experience before Thursday.

“I liked the contributions of the kids off the bench,” Dickson said. “I hope that this is another opportunity to grow, and even if we get in a similar situation on the road on Saturday where someone hits us with a 6-0 run, that we regroup a little bit faster.”

Lawrence will travel to Manhattan on Saturday for its first road test of the year. At least in terms of the unique environment, though, the Lions should expect much of the same in this new climate of playing sports during a pandemic.

With no fans being allowed until at least January, Lawrence’s home gym was weirdly quiet when the team ran on to the floor for its pregame routine. The players wore a facial covering at all times, and both benches were socially distanced. Players also had to use hand sanitizer when they entered or left the game.

Even the starting introductions were unique. Rather than have players shake hands near midcourt when they were introduced, the five starters from each team merely stood on their side of the court and waved when their name was called. The postgame gratitude was a simple wave from each bench as well.

Dickson admitted after the game that he was proud of the way his team dealt with all the restrictions, and that safety remains their primary focus for the remainder of the season.

“We obviously have people that would be in our program that have opted out because of the situation,” Dickson said. “I understand because I’m a father and I wonder what I would do in that situation. I’ve committed to coach this year because the kids want to play and I feel like I owe it to them.”

“With all the sacrifices, and all the things the kids have missed out,” Dickson added. “Even in a game that ended up that way, I think everybody was grateful that they had the opportunity to play.”

Blue Valley NW (59)

Hayley Numrich 3-4 0-0 7, Megan Edwards 2-3 0-0 4, Claire Suchma 2-4 0-0 4, Brynn Grosdidier 4-5 0-1 9, Lanie Douglas 7-9 1-3 15, Josie Grosdidier 1-4 3-4 5, Elise Grosdidier 5-11 0-0 11, Ava Smith 0-3 0-0 0, Katie Mitchell 1-1 0-0 2. Totals: 25-45 5-10 59.

Lawrence (23)

Hailey Ramirez 1-7 2-4 4, Layla Harjo 1-5 2-3, Lucky Hardy 1-3 0-0 2, Serenity Keo 2-4 2-3 7, Azura Clark 1-6 1-2 3, Jayden Wilson 0-0 0-0 0, Brecken Ostronic 0-5 1-2 1, Morgann Haaga 0-0 1-2 1, Cree Stewart 0-1 0-2, Daphne Bracker Sturm 0-0 1-2 1, Cadence Johnson 0-2 0-0 0. Totals: 6-33 10-20 23.

Blue Valley NW 23 15 19 2 — 59

Lawrence 3 6 8 6 — 23

3-point goals: BVNW 4-13 (Numrich, Suchma, B. Grosdidier, E. Grosdidier); LHS 1-8 (Keo). Turnovers: BVNW 6; LHS 19. Fouled out: None.

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