The Lee’s Summit North girls basketball team has several goals this season. The Broncos knocked off one of them Feb. 24, when they claimed the Suburban Conference Big Six championship with a dominating 67-35 win over Raymore-Peculiar on Senior Night.
“We wanted to put a great game on the floor the kids would be proud of and would remember,” Broncos head coach Tricia Lillygren said of her seniors. “And we were also focused on trying to cap the conference season. We had a lot of motivating factors to go out and play hard.”
That was more than enough to get past the Panthers, as the Broncos would put this one out of reach early.
The Broncos scored the first nine points of the game and led 19-4 by the end of the opening quarter.
“We definitely knew we had to come out strong,” North senior Imani Johnson said. “We didn’t want to let up.”
They kept the foot on the gas in the second quarter thanks to a strong fast break attack led by senior point guard Erica Nelson, who was spreading the wealth around to help the Broncos take a 38-13 halftime lead.
“The key to tonight was that we found the best kid on the floor to take the shot,” Lillygren said. “And our transition game in the first half was great. We did a good job of running the floor. Erica delivered the ball great tonight. We had her down for eight assists and only one turnover.”
Nothing seemed to be going right on either side of the floor for the Panthers, as they made only six field goals in the first half.
“When we get outplayed and we get outhustled the way we were, we’re not focused on shooting, we’re just throwing it up there,” Ray-Pec coach Brad Gaines said. “Then it feeds off that in the sense that now we don’t play defensively. They played hard and we didn’t. We were too individualistic at times.”
Ray-Pec actually put together a solid third quarter, outscoring North 14-13 led by Taylor Koper and Meghan Maher scoring seven points apiece. But the fourth was all Broncos once again, as the senior group of Johnson, Nelson, Stevie Anderson and Jaden Powell finished their final home game in style.
The foursome finished the game combining for 48 points. Johnson led the way with 18.
“We definitely feel like we need to step up. It’s our team,” Johnson said of the seniors. “If we want to end the season the way we want we have to put things in our hands.”
And they’ve done just that so far, leading the team to a 19-4 record, an 8-1 conference mark and a top seed in district play beginning next week.
“Obviously, they’re a solid group we’ve been going to all season long,” Lillygren said. “We point to them to get us through the good times and especially the times of adversity, and we’ve had some.”
Both teams have one game remaining before they start district play. While the Broncos are the No. 1 seed in Class 5 District 13, the Panthers are the third seed in District 16 and will play St. Teresa’s Academy at 7 p.m. March 4 on their home floor.
“We have to learn how to play together,” Gaines said. “We have to learn that basketball is not a sport where you can do it all by yourself. When you’re not and the other team is, it’s a tough game.”
While the Panthers are the underdogs, the Broncos will try and advance into the playoffs as the top dog, with Blue Springs South – a team which handed North one of its four losses this season – Blue Springs and Lee’s Summit among a group of district challengers.
North will try and avenge that loss to the Jaguars tomorrow in its final regular season game before the one-and-done life of the postseason begins, where their eyes will be set on some new goals.
“This is definitely what we pictured in the end,” Johnson said of winning a conference title. “It’s all going the right way right now. But there are still a lot of games left. … We have to play within ourselves and play as a team and stick together. That’s probably the most important thing, that we stick together.”