Rough first half leads to 53-25 LHS road loss to SM Northwest

LHS coach Jeff Dickson talks to his team during a timeout. LHS fell to Shawnee Mission Northwest 53-25 on Friday, Feb. 7.

Shawnee — Near the end of the first quarter, Lawrence High coach Jeff Dickson urged his team to have more patience on offense.

“Slow down!” Dickson said to his team.

That’s easier said than done against Shawnee Mission Northwest (15-1, 7-1 Sunflower League), as the aggressive Cougars rolled to a 53-25 victory over LHS Friday night.

The Cougars (No. 3 in Class 6A) got going early with a 12-0 lead, forcing turnovers on defense and wanting to attack the basket offensively. However, even with eight turnovers in the first quarter, LHS (5-9, 1-5 Sunflower League) fought back.

“I thought we got scared of the pressure,” Dickson said. “We didn’t do a good job of moving our feet and being very active with our hands. We had turnovers just based on not going full speed, because you can’t hesitate against a team that plays that (aggressive).”

Starting with 3-pointers from freshman guards Hailey Ramirez and Serenity Keo, the Lions went on an 8-2 run, capped by a jumper at the buzzer from freshman point guard Amaya Marshall.

But in the second quarter SM Northwest regained some life as sophomore guard Tamara Harris-Webster and senior guard Mollie Elfrink each hit a 3-pointer. This started a 23-4 run for the Cougars.

Sophomore forward Ericka Ojeda was also a huge part of the run off the bench, hitting a trio of 3-pointers and barely missing a fourth. The Cougars took a 37-14 lead going into halftime.

“I thought we had her marked up pretty well, but she hit some big shots for them and it really was just kind of a back-breaking thing,” Dickson said of Ojeda. “I really thought we started hanging our heads even more.”

Both teams got off to a bit of a slow start in the second half, though, with the Lions striking first with baskets from Marshall and junior forward Ozi Ajekwu. SM Northwest didn’t score in the second half until a layup from Kennedy Taylor at the 3:12 mark of the third quarter.

LHS managed to get Taylor — one of the “best centers in high school basketball in Kansas,” according to Dickson — into foul trouble, but couldn’t take advantage. This especially came down to Ajekwu, who Dickson said could be a little more aggressive calling for the ball.

“(Ajekwu’s) just a super unselfish person and is trying to make plays for other people, and sometimes we just need her to go in the paint and demand the ball,” Dickson said.

“That’s another step in her growing as a player: she’s got to become a little more selfish and literally demand the ball.”

SM Northwest still held a 46-18 lead at the end of the third quarter.

Both teams pulled their starters midway through the fourth quarter to get some of the younger players experience as the Cougars secured their 15th win of the season.

Despite the result, Dickson chalks this up to the rigors of playing in the Sunflower League and can be valuable experience later on.

“We’re Lawrence High, we feel like we always have aspirations to be a state championship-caliber team, so they’re getting to see firsthand what that looks like,” Dickson said. “For these kids playing against kids that are a lot older, they’re getting exposed a little bit. But in the long run I think it’s going to help pay off for our program.”

Next up, LHS will host Shawnee Mission East at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Lawrence (25)

Ozi Ajekwu 3-6 0-2 6, Hailey Ramirez 2-5 0-0 6, Amaya Marshall 2-5 0-0 4, Layla Harjo 1-2 0-0 3, Lexi Dutcher 1-4 0-0 3, Serenity Keo 0-4 2-2 2, Jayden Wilson 0-0 1-4 1, Geme Ajekwu 0-4 0-0 0, Paiden Bell 0-2 0-0 0, Ella Stewart 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 9-33 10-19 25.

Shawnee Mission Northwest (53)

Kennedy Taylor 8-14 2-2 18, Ericka Ojeda 4-9 0-0 12, Tamara Harris-Webster 3-6 0-0 7, Saige Grampsas 2-3 1-2 5, Mollie Elfrink 1-2 0-0 3, Ella Mackiewicz 1-3 0-0 2, Jillian Meister 1-1 0-0 3, Piper Borgman 1-3 0-0 2, Kylie Dunn 0-2 1-2 1, Dajanai Jackson 0-2 0-1 0, Maddie Mauch 0-2 0-0 0, Brooke Brummer 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 21-48 4-7 53.

Lawrence 8 6 4 7 — 25

Shawnee Mission Northwest 14 23 9 7 — 53

3-point goals: LHS 4-10 (Ramirez, Harjo, Dutcher); SM Northwest 7-14 (Ojeda, Meister, Elfrink, Harris-Webster). Turnovers: LHS 28, SM Northwest 12.

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