No joke: LHS girls are legit
Is anyone surprised to see the Lansing High girls' basketball team perched atop the Kaw Valley League standings?
Sure, it was easy to count this squad out before the season began. It had won just seven games last year and lost a bulk of its scoring power. Plus, the Lions had a new coach taking over, and sometimes it takes a while for teams to make the transition between coaches.
There were plenty of reasons not to expect much from this bunch early on, but ever since Lansing's 53-49 loss to Harrisonville, there has been no question the Lions (4-2 overall, 3-0 KVL) could compete with the best the KVL has to offer, and possibly become one of the top teams.
Lack of a positive attitude cost the Lions numerous times down the stretch in close games last season. There wasn't a sense of cohesiveness on that team, and players often expected to lose. This year has been a different story. First-year coach Keith Andrews has fostered a positive atmosphere every day in the gym, and his players have responded. Between wind sprints, you'll see players laughing as they're gasping for breath. You'll see high-fives. You'll see smiles.
You'll also see a ton of sweat. That comes from hard work. Make no mistake about it, this squad hasn't won four games in a row on talent alone. It has won because it has worked for it. The Lions have earned every ounce of success they've experienced so far because they've bought into Andrews' system, met his demands and constantly strived to improve.
"We're working hard and we're winning. We're going out to win, and the fun is a result of the winning," junior forward Amanda Radovich said.
That has made their success all the sweeter.
Although hard work and a positive attitude are important, there's more to Lansing's success than that. The Lions' talent pool is much deeper than was believed at the start of the season. Radovich (15.5 points per game) was expected to be the go-to scorer and has been, but she has had plenty of help. Senior Emily Goodlin has averaged almost eight points per game as the other starting forward, while junior Rachel Darrow (8.2 points) has emerged as a lethal perimeter threat. Senior point guard Monique Richardson also has upped her scoring to almost six points per game while hitting 67 percent of her shots.
Andrews regularly goes 12 deep on his bench, and when he has done so there has been little, if any, drop-off in production. Sophomore Riann Deere has been as pesky a defender as any off the bench, while freshmen Amanda Darrow, Morgan Chiles and Katie Nietzke and junior Nichole Twitchell all have proven they can score.
With so many contributors and with victories flowing in, the Lions' confidence has been sky high. That, in itself, may be the most critical point.
Winning breeds confidence, plain and simple, and the Lions have been winning. They've done it enough now that they've reached the point where they're no longer hoping to win. They're expecting to win every time out. There's a sense that they believe they can defeat anybody, and they expect to. Just as losing is contagious, so is winning, and right now the Lions are hooked on it.
The final component to Lansing's turnaround has been senior leadership. The contributions that Goodlin, Richardson, Kendra Sickinger and Melissa Casto have made cannot be discounted.
When Andrews isn't pointing out the areas the Lions still need to improve upon, he is raving about the job his seniors have done making sure the team has stayed focused and united. The seniors have made sure the team's numerous underclassmen feel included and important, and they've done everything Andrews has asked of them. The upperclassmen haven't been concerned about individual stats. Their only goal has been winning games - and the wins are piling up.
When you think about it, it really isn't surprising these girls are atop the league standings. The only question is whether they can stay there for the rest of the season.
Will the Lions win the Kaw Valley League girls' basketball championship? Only time will tell, but I wouldn't put it past them.
- Chris Wristen's column, Under the Lights, appears regularly on the blogs page at lansingcurrent.com and occasionally in the print edition.