‘Winning season’ is goal
Last year, when Keith Andrews took over as the Lansing High girls basketball coach , he had to work with lots of unproven talent.
This year he has a different problem. Most of that unproven talent proved itself worthy of playing time, so now he almost has too many players to choose from.
Take, for example, his point guard situation. Junior Riann Deere and sophomore Katie Nietzke are vying for the starting spot. Deere is one of the team's top defensive players, but Nietzke is emerging as a scoring threat.
"It's like having a quarterback controversy with two good quarterbacks," Andrews said. "It's a nice (problem) to have."
The "problem" runs deeper than the point guard position, though. In fact, Andrews has multiple players battling for almost every position. It seems seniors Amanda Radovich (forward), Nichole Twitchel (wing) and Rachel Darrow (wing) are the only locks for the starting lineup. Sophomores Morgan Chiles and Amanda Darrow will be the backups on the wing. Freshman Brittney Lang also could be in the mix.
Juniors Elizabeth Cristiano, Kara Ritchey and Nakia Becker and sophomores Mary Lyon and Christine Cordes all could nab the other starting spot in the post.
"The people we've got, I think all in all, we're probably more athletic," Andrews said. "We're probably deeper with a little more experience, so that's a plus. Whether that's going to mean any wins or not, we'll see."
With so many players competing for minutes, Andrews said it would be important for the team to replicate the level of chemistry and work ethic that last year's squad had. Rachel Darrow said she didn't expect that to be a problem.
"I think this year's strengths also will be unity and work ethic," she said. "As long as we keep working hard we'll be OK. We just have to stick together and work hard and it should be a winning season."
Having a winning record isn't an unrealistic for the Lions. After all, they were 10-11 last year and lost four games by four or fewer points. Also, they return seven players with extensive varsity experience, including their top two scorers - Radovich and Rachel Darrow.
Scoring alone won't help the Lions win games, Andrews said. He said rebounding, defense and ball control are the areas they must improve if they're going to be successful. All three will be key areas of emphasis this season.
"We've got to put a premium on rebounding because we're going to miss Emily's rebounds from last year," Andrews said, referring to double-digit rebounder Emily Goodlin, a volleyball player at Johnson County Community College. "We've also got to put a premium on handling the ball."
LHS struggled at times to take care of the ball last year. Its turnover troubles largely were the result of trying to become a running team with inexperienced players. The Lions showed steady improvement in that area throughout the year, however, and they are confident that guard play will be a strength this season.
"The main thing I see right now is Riann Deere running the point," Radovich said. "She's running it really good, she sees the floor and she puts the ball right on your hands. That's a big improvement. And then Katie Nietzke is looking to shoot, which is exactly what we need."
Andrews said his squad looks much better now than it did at this point last year, and he said that has resulted in his players being more confident.
"There's a quiet air about them, or just the confidence that we're going to get it done somehow," he said. "That's a pleasure to have, and now we've got to convert that into W's on game night."
The Lions will open Dec. 8-10 at the Bonner Springs Tournament. Then they'll have a Dec. 13 home contest with Basehor-Linwood and a Dec. 16 game at Mill Valley before taking two weeks off for winter break.