Archive for Thursday, December 30, 2004

Positive Vibes

Team unity, better work ethic fostering LHS girls’ success

December 30, 2004

Kendra Sickinger didn't want to see any drama on the basketball court this year - not unless it involved some sort of last-second victory for her Lansing High girls' basketball team.

The other kind of drama - intrasquad bickering and concern about individual stats - was something she wanted to do without. She'd seen enough of it during her career and was ready to have fun and win some games.

Five games into her senior season, Sickinger is having a blast. The Lions dropped their first two games but responded with a three-game winning streak heading into winter break.

Not only are they winning, they're playing together and having fun. That, she said, has been the best part.

"It's so awesome," said Sickinger, a fourth-year varsity player. "We've been able to keep the intensity up, and everybody has a positive attitude. We have no drama like we did last year. Everyone's wanting to win, and everybody's just out there to play basketball."

That goes for everybody, from the seniors to the freshmen. First-year coach Keith Andrews said his players had been on the same page from day one with their understanding that they could win only if they united as a group and put the team first. Sickinger and seniors Emily Goodlin, Monique Richardson and Melissa Casto took that to heart and did everything they could to make sure their team was a close-knit group from the first day of practice.

"They've totally included me," said freshman Katie Nietzke, one of the Lions' top reserves. "They've called me and included me in stuff. They've asked to go shopping. Just little stuff to help and make me feel a lot more comfortable. I think it's helped a lot of us freshmen. A lot of us were nervous at first."

Lansing High girls' basketball players, from left, Kendra Sickinger, Melissa Casto, Emily Goodlin and Katie Nietzke celebrate during the final minutes of the Lions' 53-41 victory against Mill Valley. The Lions have won three straight games.

Lansing High girls' basketball players, from left, Kendra Sickinger, Melissa Casto, Emily Goodlin and Katie Nietzke celebrate during the final minutes of the Lions' 53-41 victory against Mill Valley. The Lions have won three straight games.

Unity has been a major factor in Lansing's early success, but plenty of hard work also has been part of the equation. Andrews has run his players into the ground with sprints to make sure they're in tip-top shape, and he's grilled them about valuing every possession during games.

The Lions have taken their lumps, too, but their improved work ethic and commitment to each other helped them stay focused and eventually find success.

"We're working hard for our wins," said junior Amanda Radovich, who leads the Lions with 14.2 points per game. "We're working hard and we're winning. We're going out to win, and the fun is a result of the winning."

The Lions had so much fun winning three in a row that they actually were disappointed when the two-week holiday break rolled around. That meant one week out of the gym and two weeks between games - plenty of time to lose momentum if they weren't careful.

"The worst thing was that we had the break, because everything was going good," Andrews said. "The last game, in the locker room you're having a great time and you're on top, and now we've got to take five days off and do nothing."

Well, other teams might have done nothing - but not the Lions. Richardson organized a few pick-up games during break because she wanted to make sure she and her teammates spent time together and stayed sharp on the court. Andrews said that should help his squad when it returns to action at 6 p.m. Tuesday night at Tonganoxie.

"I hope the girls are hungry," Andrews said about the Tongie game. "I told them today, 'Don't ever be satisfied. We're 2-0 (in league). We can take a big step next week and get two wins if possible, and going 4-0 in league is a great beginning. The more we win, the more we're in the driver's seat."

Andrews said he wasn't worried about his players having trouble refocusing, though. Neither are the Lions. They're just happy to be back in the gym, back playing basketball, and back together again.

"I couldn't wait to come back to practice," Nietzke said. "I was dreading staying at home all day doing nothing. I just love coming here, shooting around and being with my friends. That's the best part of this whole season is being with friends and just getting out and having fun."

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