LHS girls eye tournament title
Defense delivers again as Lions roll to 38-26 semifinal victory
Tonganoxie The Lansing High girls' first stint in the winner's bracket of the Tonganoxie Invitational girls basketball tournament might end with the squad's first tournament title.
That's a possibility because LHS defeated Eudora 38-26 on Friday afternoon in the semifinals.
LHS girls advance to tourney finals
Lansing knocked off Eudora 38-26 on Friday in the semifinals of the Tonganoxie Invitational Tournament.
"I told the girls on Monday that our goal is to be in the championship game," LHS coach Keith Andrews said. "We're going to play hard and we're going to play in the championship game. That's what we're going to do.
"Whether we get Tongie or Silver Lake, they're going to be good opponents. We've got to come out and play again, but we've got that part of the goal done. Now we've just got to come and work and cap it off."
Lansing's opponent in the 6 p.m. Saturday title game will be Kaw Valley League rival and tournament host Tonganoxie. The Chieftains, ranked No. 1 in the state in Class 4A, blew out defending champion Silver Lake 50-20 in the other semifinal.
LHS (4-6) advanced to the winner's bracket Monday by beating Jeff West, 45-40. Friday's game was tougher, however, because leading scorer Katie Nietzke sat out after missing a day of school because of an illness. Freshman Amy Briggs started in her place.
Nietzke's absence resulted in the Lions attempting fewer three-point shots, but they compensated with increased production in the paint. Junior forward Christine Cordes contributed six points and 10 rebounds while junior forward Morgan Chiles added six points and seven boards. Even more important was that they got Eudora forwards Haley Epperson and Allison Braden in foul trouble.
"That was our goal," Cordes said. "They're their best players, and we wanted to take them out of the game and force their guards to play. Then we could just play our game."
The Lions set the tone with their defense from the opening tip. They only led 8-7 after the first quarter, but they forced seven turnovers and limited the Cardinals to just seven field goal attempts.
Lansing's offense began to click in the second quarter. It made four of its first six shots and built a 16-7 lead with 3:41 left in the half. Eudora (7-4) responded with four unanswered points, but that's as close as the Cardinals would ever get. The Lions took a 21-13 lead into halftime. The lead could have been greater if they hadn't missed numerous point-blank shots and layups.
"If we make a few of those put-backs and a wide-open layup or two, we're up by 15 or 18 points and on the verge of blowing them out," Andrews said.
LHS opened the third quarter on a 6-2 run as Cordes knocked down a turnaround jumper and Brittney Lang made two free throws and a layup. That extended the lead to 12 points. The Lions made just two field goals in the final 12 minutes, but they maintained a comfortable lead by sinking six free throws and forcing nine turnovers during that span.
"At the end there we were playing with two freshmen, a sophomore and two juniors," Andrews said. "They were just working. That whole group we had worked for everything they got. They were aggressive. They were believing in their defense."
Eudora was so off-target with its shooting that Lansing's 27.7 field goal percentage for the game hardly mattered. EHS shot just 18.6 percent and had 23 turnovers for the game. The Lions also outrebounded the Cardinals by a whopping 50-30 margin.
Lang led Lansing with 15 points, 10 rebounds and four steals. Amanda Darrow had seven points, nine rebounds, four steals and a blocked shot. Chiles and Cordes each scored six points, and Amy Briggs had four.
Lansing now has won three games in a row after beginning the season 1-6. Andrews said this recent stretch - and especially the run to the tournament finals - is evidence that the Lions are coming together.
"I think it's a huge step because you did it without Katie, but you're playing together as a team," Andrews said. "I think they believe in the team. They believe more in defense. They're growing. And we've talked about how on any given night we can beat any given team if we come out and play and put effort and all that, and they believe that. That's the biggest part of it."
Nietzke is expected to be back in the lineup for the championship game with Tonganoxie. The meeting will be the second of the season between LHS and THS. The Chieftains edged the Lions 44-42 on Dec. 15. Cordes said the Lions are eager for the rematch.
"We're ready to beat them," she said. "This gives us tons of confidence. I think this tournament brought us together as a team. We just figured out what we have to do."
Tonganoxie 50, Silver Lake 20
The Tonganoxie girls advanced to the championship game by routing defending tournament champion Silver Lake in a game that never was close.
Silver Lake gave Tongie its only regular-season loss last year, so the Chieftains entered the game with payback on their minds. Their focus was evident in how they played defense. They held the Eagles scoreless for the first 6:48 and led 14-2 with 4 1/2 minutes left in the first half.
Liz Baska led THS with 20 points, Rachel Bogard had 12 and Ali Pistora added nine. The Chieftains outrebounded the Eagles 49-20. Pistora had a game-high 10 boards, Rebecca Bogard had seven and Christy Weller and Rachel Bogard had six.
Tonganoxie is 10-0 this season and ranked No. 1 in the state in Class 4A.