During the long grind of a high-school basketball season, even the best of teams can hit a rough patch.
Just as the Lee’s Summit North girls. They were skidding on a big one last week.
Going into their Jan. 30 game at Lee’s Summit, the Broncos had lost two of their previous three games – to Shawnee Mission Northwest at the Truman tournament and by 12 points to a Liberty team they had beaten by 15 just three days before.
On top of all that, Broncos coach Tricia Lillygren was home battling the flu.
What the Broncos needed was a big confidence boost. And that’s just what they got with a solid 69-44 Suburban Big Six Conference victory over the Tigers.
“We were prepared for the adversity,” said North assistant coach Sean Donovan, who filled in for Lillygren. “We were obviously coming off a tough loss and we had our second conference road game of the week. But we just decided to go out and take care of the positives.”
North found many positives as it improved to 12-4 overall and evened its Big Six record at 1-1. The Broncos’ trapping man-to-man defense made it hard for Lee’s Summit to drive the lane for easy baskets. And their offense, fueled by Erica Nelson’s 19 points and five assists, flourished both in the half court and in transition.
“Our girls came out and played with a lot of energy and positive attitudes and played together,” Donovan said. “That was the key, both offensively and defensively.”
That wasn’t the case against Liberty, Nelson said. The senior guard thought her team played too much one-on-one defense and strayed away from working as one unit.
But after the way the Broncos came out against the Tigers, she was feeling better about her team.
“We thought we were the hot stuff around Missouri,” Nelson said. “We thought we could beat anybody. The Truman tournament kind of brought us down to earth and Liberty, too. Liberty showed us that we’ve got to fight for each game.”
North came out fighting early. Nelson hit three of her five three-pointers in the first half, including a half-court heave at the buzzer that put the Broncos up 16-8. Nelson said it was the first time she’d ever made one of those in a game.
“I practice them a lot,” Nelson said. “I just chuck ’em. When I shot it, I was like, ‘Oh man it’s going to hit the side of the backboard. But when it hit the corner of the backboard and went in, I was like, OK.”
Lee’s Summit managed only one basket in the second quarter as North upped its lead 29-13 by halftime. The Broncos closed out the third quarter with a 15-2 run that put the game away.
Lee’s Summit coach Jessica Crawford said it was just another learning experience for her young team, which fell to 5-11 overall and 0-3 in the conference. The Tigers did get a boost from junior guard Eriyanna Jones, who came off the bench to score 14 points in the second half.
“I have a very young team, a very inexperienced team,” Crawford said. “I thought in the second half we came out and played hard like we do in practice.”