Girls basketball team claims second win over Free State

Team ends regular season with 16-4 record

By Gary Schmidt, Sports Editor

From the opening tip, the Lions put pressure on the visiting Firebirds, as sophomore Chisom Ajekwu won the toss and passed the ball ahead to put the Lions up by two within four seconds.

It was a strong start to tonight’s 54-43 win over the Firebirds, allowing the Lions to finish the regular season strong with their second win of the season over Free State.

Behind a thunderous home crowd, the Lions built upon that early lead quickly, jumping out to an 8-0 advantage after two quick three’s before the Firebirds were able to score. Shooting without hesitation from behind the three-point arc, the Lions dominated the majority of the first period, leading 15-4 halfway through the frame.

The Firebirds began pressing the Lions higher up the court, and costly turnovers along with shots from the outside not falling allowed the away side to work its way back into the game steadily, ending the frame 18-16 LHS.

In the second quarter, both teams slowed down offensively, as a combined 13 points were scored in the period.

The Lions turned to a lineup focused on size, having both center sophomore Sammy Williams and Ajekwu on the floor, and the considerable advantage for the team led to a strong defensive outing for the team, as they only allowed four points.

The Lions however, struggled similarly on their end of the floor, but an emphasis of finding Ajekwu in the post sent the Lions into halftime leading 27-20.

Whatever doubts the Lions had in the first half, they left behind in the locker room.

The Lions came out equally as strong in the second half, and took their seven-point advantage to a commanding double-digit advantage.

Just as the Firebirds did in the first half, the Lions began pressing and forced numerous turnovers, one of which saw junior E’lease Stafford steal the ball at midcourt and race ahead, smoothly euro-stepping past her defender and finishing with her left. Stafford, carried the Lions on the day, scoring numerous baskets from behind the arc, but also additionally flashing moves to finish inside.

With their pressure, the Lions were able to head into the final quarter with a dominant 40-30 lead.

In the final frame, any hopes the Firebirds had of getting back in the game vanished as the Lions were quick to get down the court and answer.

In the closing moments, the team shared a special moment.

With 20 seconds left, senior Madison McKinney subbed into the game.

McKinney tore her ACL in the team’s Pack the House scrimmage, but was recently cleared to return to light exercise. Returning to the court in front of a cheering student section, she said, was a moment she would always remember.

“Words can’t describe the feeling I had tonight,” she said. “Being able to step on the court one last time with Skylar and Olivia while playing in that type of environment was truly amazing. I’m thankful for Coach Dickson for giving me that opportunity. This is a night I will never forget.”

With the 54-43 victory, the Lions finished the regular season 16-4. Substate play begins next week.