LHS girls hustle to 3rd-place finish
Defensive pressure helps Lansing overcome shooting woes
Tonganoxie If any basketball team understands that it takes more than shots to win a game, it's the Lansing High girls.
The Lions have shot 40 percent or better just twice this season, so they're obviously 8-4 for some other reason.
That reason became crystal clear on Saturday during the third-place game of the Tonganoxie Invitational Tournament.
That reason was effort.
LHS shot a season-low 22.4 percent for the game and made just three field goals in the first half, but it still beat Silver Lake, 43-31.
"As long as you're playing hard, I don't have any complaints," fourth-year Lansing coach Keith Andrews said. "We'll have nights where we don't make any shots, and we'll have nights where they go in, and we'll have nights where we do things well and other things bad. But you need to play hard every night, and we did that."
The difference was in the details. Lansing outscored Silver Lake 17-3 at the free throw line. The Lions held a 44-43 rebounding advantage, had nine steals and committed just six turnovers. They also played smothering defense and held the Eagles to just 24 percent shooting.
The Lions forced 13 turnovers and made rebounding a collaborative effort as Brittney Lang and Alexis Ellis grabbed seven boards apiece, Katie Nietzke had six rebounds, Christine Cordes and Amy Briggs each had five and Morgan Chiles grabbed four.
Chiles also blocked two shots.
It was a far cry from Friday night's semifinal loss to Eudora when Lansing struggled to shoot, rebound or defend with any consistency.
The loss to Eudora was Lansing's first of 2008, and it served as a wake-up call of sorts for the Lions, who currently are in position to claim the No. 1 seed in their Class 5A substate bracket in February.
"I think losing shocked us," senior forward Cordes said. "Not that we came out expecting to win, but we thought we were going to win just because we hadn't lost in '08 yet. We just didn't put it together (Friday) night, so we used our frustration to come back and play better today."
Although it won by double digits against Silver Lake, Lansing found its share of troubles early. It missed its first 11 shots and fell behind, 11-4.
Lang and Nietzke swished back-to-back three-pointers to pull the Lions within 11-10 with 48 seconds left in the first quarter, but they didn't make another field goal in the first half. Three free throws by Cordes accounted for the rest of their scoring before halftime, and the Eagles took an 18-13 lead into the break.
Silver Lake scored the first four points of the third quarter and opened up a nine-point lead, but that's when a hearty dose of hustle turned things around for Lansing.
The Lions attacked the glass for rebounds, contested every shot and dove on the floor for every loose ball. They stopped settling for guarded three-pointers and drove to the basket. They drew fouls and knocked down free throws.
"Knowing that they were going to be a physical team, we knew that we had to be just as physical," Lang said.
After five minutes of domination, a three-pointer in the corner by Lang capped a 14-0 run that put Lansing ahead, 27-22. Silver Lake inched to within a point by the end of the quarter, but the momentum shift was complete and LHS was in control.
The Lions outscored the Eagles 15-4 in the fourth quarter and made six free throws down the stretch to put the game away.
Lang led Lansing with a game-high 19 points, Ellis had seven, Cordes scored six, Briggs had four, Nietzke and Amanda Darrow had three apiece and Chiles scored one.
Cordes said the Lions' performance against Silver Lake opened their eyes as to how they should play each game, and she said that should benefit them down the road.
"I think we just need to use this game as a starting block for the rest of our season, because we just put everything out on the floor tonight," she said. "We haven't been shooting good all year, so we just have to do all of the little things that we did tonight in order to continue winning this season, and hopefully our shots will fall."
Lang and Ellis earned All-Tournament Team honors for their performance during the three-game event. Shannon Carlin of first-place Tonganoxie was the tournament MVP.
Lansing next plays at 6 p.m. Friday at home against Bonner Springs. The Lions have beaten the Bravettes twice this season.