The Lee’s Summit North girls are brimming with confidence right now, and who could blame them?
After dismantling Blue Springs 44-30 March 7 in the Class 5 District 13 tournament final at Raytown, the Broncos see no reason to fear anyone, even powerhouse Truman, which happens to be their next opponent in sectional play at 6:30 p.m. tonight (March 12) at the Independence Events Center.
North has faced Truman twice and lost both times – 55-48 Dec. 6 in the Lee’s Summit North tournament and 46-45 three days later at Truman. But that was a long time ago, and after winning a district title with as complete a game as they have played this season, the Broncos believe they’re a much better team now.
“It’s tough to beat us three times,” North senior guard Erica Nelson said. “We played them early and we’ve been improving through the year.”
North, 21-5, demonstrated that improvement in the district final with a patient offense and a stingy defense that held Blue Springs scoreless for minutes at a time. And they were able to do that with Imani Johnson, the Broncos’ leading scorer and big presence under the basket, spending time on the bench in foul trouble.
“We played a much smarter game tonight,” North coach Tricia Lillygren said. “Offensively we took our time most of the time and found the right person to take the shot. I think at halftime we were shooting 70 percent, and that’s what we have to strive for. If you can do that and play solid (defense), you’re going to win some ballgames.”
North started the game with a 15-4 run which included two three-pointers by Nelson. The Wildcats clawed back to within 23-16 by halftime, but the Broncos outscored them 13-3 in the third quarter and never threatened after that.
It starts with defense,” said Nelson, who finished with 10 points. “And I think we proved tonight that we can play good team basketball and good team defense.”
North also proved it can do that without Johnson, who picked up her third foul two minutes into the second quarter and her third early in the third. She still managed to score a team-best 14 points, and the Broncos managed fine with freshman and little sister Aaliyah Johnson taking her place.
“Aaliyah came in and did a fantastic job,” Lillygren said. “She’s getting stronger every day, so if we need to save Imani some minutes by getting her off in foul trouble, we feel very confident about putting Aaliyah in there and letting her go to work.”
Which just adds to the Broncos’ confidence, regardless of the next opponent.
“I really think it’s our year and we’re going to state,” Nelson said.