Girls basketball team takes on unfinished business

After returning all five starters, Lions aim for state


The starting five for the Lions include senior Skylar Drum, junior E’lease Stafford, sophomore Hannah Stewart, sophomore Chisom Ajekwu and senior Olivia Lemus.

By Gary Schmidt, Sports Editor

The buzzer sounded, and the Lions’ season was over.

The sight of Shawnee Mission West parading around on the Lions’ home court made the sub-state final loss even harder to swallow. Something didn’t feel right, the premature loss, losing their leading scorer just two games before. Everything that could have gone wrong went wrong.

But the Lions were optimistic. They could take the harsh loss easier, knowing they would have one more chance.

This season’s edition of the girls’ basketball team returns all five starters from a year ago. With a roster that flipped from young and inexperienced to a chiseled veteran lineup, the team came into the year carrying momentum from last season. They rattled off five straight wins to start the season and headed into winter break holding the No. 5 ranking in Kansas.

The consensus reason for the success of the team was simple: the chemistry.

Senior guard, Skylar Drum, a four year starter for the Lady Lions said the familiarity has helped.

“[Returning all five starters is] really great,” Drum said. “We have a lot more experience and are more connected. We know what each other can do and where the other ones are going to be.”

Drum in her four years of starting has witnessed the meteoric rise of the program, from six wins her freshman season to 12 victories this past year. According to Drum, however, this team has the ability to be the most special in all her time here.

Drum is joined by fellow senior Olivia Lemus. The two, both receiving All-Sunflower League honors a year ago, provide the veteran presence for the team. In crunch time, the ball often falls into their hands, leading the team vocally and through their play.

However, the team could not maintain their perfect start. The Lions suffered two losses to open 2017, both to top five teams in the state. The losses reminded the team that the majority of their lineup is still young, with junior E’Lease Stafford and sophomores Chisom Ajekwu and Hannah Stewart making up the remainder of the five.

Issues with turning the ball over and the all-state pair of Ajekwu and Stafford being virtually shut down forced the Lions to search for scoring elsewhere.

Despite the crushing losses, the Lions remained confident. They still believed in the system head coach Jeff Dickson has instilled in the program. Playing together, not because they have to, but because they want to.

“[He makes us buy into that team identity by] making sure we are doing the want to’s and not the have to’s,” Stewart said “We have bought into the system by wanting to have good chemistry and wanting to have those strong bonds. We have bought into the idea of wanting to instead of having to.”

The Lions bounced back in a big way, trouncing the same Shawnee Mission West team that denied them a trip to the state tournament last year. This was the first win over the perennial powerhouse for the program since 2004, and went a long way into conquering the demons that had haunted the Lions from a year ago.

With that mental hurdle cleared, the objective for the team is clear: reaching state for the first time since 2008.

With the right combination of youth talent, veteran experience, and the grizzled mentality Dickson has implemented into the program, the Lions are confident in how they can finish this year.

“I think that if we stick together as a team then we will be able to go far… a state championship, baby,” Stewart said.