LHS girls basketball drops 38-32 decision to SM South on senior night
The Lawrence High girls basketball team wasn’t able to get the job done on senior night, dropping a 38-32 decision to Shawnee Mission South Tuesday at LHS.
LHS (5-14, 1-10 Sunflower League) raced out to an early 13-12 lead in the first quarter thanks to the play of senior starters Ella Stewart, Lexi Dutcher and Paiden Bell. But a run in the second quarter by the Raiders forced the Lions to play from behind the rest of the night en route to their seventh consecutive defeat.
Lawrence, which hasn’t won since Feb. 1, has one game remaining in the regular season.
“We had some really good stretches; I liked the way we fought back and got back into it,” LHS head coach Jeff Dickson said. “We are so close to getting over the hump, and obviously we are running out of time. I know I need to do a better job of putting them in a position to be successful.”
Successful or not, the game was particularly special for LHS senior Sophie DeWitt. Her season was cut short by an injury she suffered against Gardner Edgerton on Jan. 21, but her team engineered an opportunity for her to score the first bucket of the night, with nobody defending her.
The plan to get DeWitt a basket was actually formed a few weeks ago, when Dickson reached out to Shawnee Mission South coach Mark Western about the possibility. He obliged, though DeWitt didn’t find out until just before the game started.
“(Dickson) made it clear what was going to happen and I was going to get the opportunity to make the shot and go out 1-for-1,” DeWitt said. “I was ecstatic. My heart was racing, I was just so excited. It was just amazing being a senior, and after getting hurt, getting the chance to go out the right way.”
After DeWitt scored, LHS let Shawnee Mission South (5-13, 2-8) score an uncontested basket on the other end to even the score. Freshman guard Amaya Marshall then subbed in for DeWitt, who was greeted with hugs by her teammates on the bench.
“It was pretty awesome; I wasn’t expecting it at all,” DeWitt said. “It was almost magical. It gave me a way to go out with my team and actually touch the ball again after not being able to play the last month or so. It was just a really special moment for me.”
“Sophie is a girl who has given her heart and soul to this school,” Dickson said. “We wanted to find a way to let her (have) one more moment in ‘The Jungle’ and let her get a well-deserved standing ovation.”
DeWitt’s absence has been evident during this recent skid by the Lions. Before her injury, she was the team’s primary defender, while also providing leadership both on and off the court. DeWitt has already signed her letter of intent to compete in track and cross country at Emporia State after high school.
But even if she’s not competing right now, DeWitt has found a way to make an impact and often sits next to Dickson on the bench during games.
“I want her by me because it helps keep me fired up,” Dickson said. “She is a super special kid, and I just love her to death.”
All four seniors have helped an inexperienced LHS team grow this season, and that development nearly turned into a win against Shawnee Mission South.
Junior Ozi Ajekwu was dominant early, scoring 9 of her team-high 12 points in the opening period to help the Lions grab an early advantage. Shawnee Mission South scored the first 7 points of the second period and played in front of the rest of the night, though Lawrence never went away.
Sophomore Layla Harjo, freshman Geme Ajekwu and Bell fueled a strong run by the Lions in the third quarter to help them pull within a single point in the final seconds of the third period. Shawnee Mission South then connected on a 3-pointer at the buzzer to create some breathing room, a situation that might have finished Lawrence in the past.
Instead, LHS still had a shot down the stretch. Marshall, along with fellow freshman guards Hailey Ramirez and Serenity Keo, were dynamic in the final period. They attacked the rim and helped force the Raiders to commit a few costly turnovers.
Shawnee Mission South eventually put the game away at the free-throw line in the final minute, spoiling a chance for Lawrence to send its seniors off with a win.
“I love this group; I don’t want to lose any of them,” Dickson said. “Great things are going to happen at Lawrence High.”
Lawrence will play host to Shawnee Mission West at 5:30 p.m. Friday.
Shawnee Mission South (38)
Lacy Whitcomb 3-15 1-2 7, Liz Crawford 1-6 2-2 5, Natalie Payne 5-15 4-9 16, Catherine Gunnigle 0-3 0-0 0, Lily Kovalcik 1-10 0-0 3, Emma Thurston 1-3 0-0 2, Yasmeen Byers 1-3 0-0 2, Katie Cooper 1-2 0-0 3. Totals: 13-57 7-13 38.
Ella Stewart 0-5 0-0 0, Lexi Dutcher 0-0 0-0 0, Sophie DeWitt 1-1 0-0 2, Ozi Ajekwu 5-11 2-4 12, Paiden Bell 1-5 1-2 3, Amaya Marshall 1-8 4-4 7, Hailey Ramirez 1-7 1-2 3, Serenity Keo 0-6 0-4 0, Layla Harjo 1-1 0-0 3, Geme Ajekwu 1-1 0-0 2. Totals: 11-45 8-16 32.
SM South 12 9 10 7 — 38
Lawrence 13 5 9 5 — 32
Three-point goals: SMS 5-32 (Crawford, Payne 2, Kovalcik); LHS 2-12 (Marshall, Harjo). Turnovers: SMS 8; LHS 16. Fouled out: None.