Breakout year by Brynnae Johnson fueling LHS girls hoops as postseason nears
photo by: Chance Parker
Lawrence High sophomore guard Brynnae Johnson, who’s constantly being mistaken for a junior by her peers, has been playing senior-level basketball all season long.
With its regular season winding down, LHS (15-4) sits in second place in the Sunflower League behind unbeaten Shawnee Mission South. Johnson, who leads the team in scoring (12.2) and holds the sixth-best assist margin (2.8) in the league, boasts an aggressive and confident brand of basketball.
LHS coach Jeff Dickson, whose group picked up a 47-35 road win at Shawnee Mission North on Tuesday, knew Johnson had starting-five potential when she was in seventh grade.
“(Brynnae) is one of those stereotypical basketball junkies,” Dickson said. “She is fearless. I think that comes from within. That’s something she’s had innately or that she’s learned to build through adversity, playing against people that are way bigger than her.”
Dickson watched Johnson become something of a phenom during junior high and had his eye on her motor ever since hosting her at various youth camps.
“In middle school, I was always the first option,” Johnson said. “I had to score 20-30 points for us to win a game. Going down to the fourth or fifth option was different for me and it took a lot of mental toughness.”
In just her second year at LHS, Johnson is feeling out her role as a full-time starter after picking up just a few starts late last season. She said LHS’s 9-12 finish last year demanded a hot start to her sophomore campaign.
LHS won nine of its first 10 games this season, currently holding just four losses to Blue Valley West, Blue Valley, Shawnee Mission South and Olathe Northwest. The Lady Lions defeated Eisenhower by 12 to win a third-place share of the Firebirds Winter Classic early this month.
Growing up with two tall brothers, Bryce and Cam, Johnson’s been exposed to hoops since the first grade – moving a broken, cardboard basket back and forth from the driveway to the backyard. It’s safe to say she learned a lesson or two about pride early on.
“It was always sports,” Johnson said. “I feel like my family always gravitated toward basketball, which was really a young love for me. My brothers both played (at LHS) so I feel like that was a big influence on me.”
Basketball, football, baseball or softball – you name it, the Johnson family’s probably given it a shot. Naturally, that competitive nature wove its way into Brynnae and her two brothers.
Bryce, a 2020 graduate of LHS, continued playing basketball at Kansas City Community College after high school. Cam, a senior with the LHS boys team (15-4), is chasing similar state title goals like his sister.
“If you’re a basketball family, you’re a big stuff-talking family,” Johnson said.
“It’s just natural. I wouldn’t say that I have a big ego, but it’s a decent-sized ego. My brothers would never actually tell me that I was good, so I was kinda pushed harder to get their approval. I really always wanted my older brothers’ approval in what I was doing.”
But Johnson didn’t only look for guidance at home. LHS senior guard Amaya Marshall has been as much of a pillar for her as any of the four seniors – Marshall, Serenity Keo, Lucy Hardy and Daphne Bracker Sturm – on the roster.
Marshall, among the top defenders in the league, has provided guidance and advice to Johnson throughout the past two seasons. Johnson said the connection between the pair is stronger because they each were tasked with joining the starting five as wide-eyed freshman.
With substate on the horizon, Johnson knows the last few glimpses of the regular season mean their most intense basketball is just ahead.
“It definitely makes you want it a little more,” Johnson said. “It just goes by so fast and you’re like, ‘wow, we only have two more games with my seniors and it’s not as much time as I thought it was going to be.’ We want to leave them feeling accomplished in their last year of high school playing basketball. It makes you want to play as hard as you can.”
LHS travels to Gardner Edgerton on Friday.
Tuesday’s boxscore from Shawnee Mission North
Lawrence High (47): Marshall 14, Bracker-Sturm 10, Savannah 6, Johnson 5, L. Hardy 5, Clark 5, Littlejohn 2.
SM North (35): Doolin 16, Mojica 7, Washington 5, Brown 4, Wallace 3.
3FGs: LHS 6 (Marshall 2, Savannah 2, Clark 1, Johnson 1); SM North 4 (Wallace 1, Washington 1, Doolin 1, Brown 1). TOs: LHS 20; SM North 16. Fouled out: none.