Youth-laden junior varsity girls found strength within team play
Dan Wessel admits he didn't see this coming.
Wessel, the first-year Lansing High junior varsity girls basketball coach, said he didn't expect his team to be so successful this year. Not with a roster that included six freshmen playing high school basketball for the first time.
Still, looking back on a season where the youth-laden Lions posted an 11-5 record, Wessel can't help but smile.
"Coming in you've got six freshmen on your team and you don't really know what you have to work with, and you don't know if they can handle the level of competition," Wessel said. "But not only did they handle the level of competition, every day in practice they really pushed the varsity squad."
Oftentimes it was freshmen Abbey Lozenski, Amy Briggs and Katelyn Griffen who did the bulk of Lansing's scoring. Then there were times, such as during the season-finale Thursday, Feb. 22 - a 37-19 victory at home against Bonner Springs - when the older players led the way. Sophomore Cassandra Murphy scored a game-high 10 points in the win against Bonner.
Wessel looked down the line at his other players - freshmen Kari Kelly, Berkley Valvero and Chelsea Weeks, and sophomores Kenzi Smith, Katie Cristiano and Alexis Ellis - and said they all were a treat to coach.
The glue to the team was its most veteran player, Wessel said. That player was junior Katie Smith.
"She did a wonderful job of leading by example," he said. "If you had to have somebody play hard, it was going to be Katie Smith at all times. I call her the 'Bonner killer,' because up there she really stepped up and played. She brought great leadership every night."
The combination of younger and older players made for an exciting blend, Wessel said, and their willingness to learn and work hard made them successful.
"It was a very good group to work with," Wessel said. "The girls are together. They mentioned that tonight after the game (against Bonner). They could see it. They like playing with each other. They really do. They like getting up and down the floor. We're blessed here at Lansing to have kids like that."