Girls basketball team opens promising season with statement wins

After a hot start, the girls team attributes success to closeness and coaching


Dylan Wheatman

Junior Brynae Johnson prepares to shoot a free throw amidst during their game against Shawnee Mission East.

By Jackson Green, Reporter

With hopes of an exciting season, and deep playoff hopes, Lawrence High School’s girls basketball team started their season with a statement win. 

In their first game, the squad went out for a dominant 86-14 win against Washington High School (KC) to kick off the season, and since then, they have improved to a record of 5-1 coming back from the break.

When the team is winning, they’re doing it by a comfortable margin, and in an exciting way. Each win so far, they’ve beaten teams on both sides of the court, and made transition play look easy. 

Speed has been the key factor that’s separating the girls from other teams. For the first four weeks before games began, the squad focussed on conditioning in practice, to allow them to play at a high speed without losing stamina, and beat teams the whole game. 

“I think that it’s really important to have that for the second half,” said senior captain Daphne Bracker-Sturm. “People get really tired and like to let their defense slip. But we focus a lot on having that energy and focus on defense and that ends up like winning a lot of games.”

The speed works perfectly with the team’s recent offensive development, where they are finding new ways to score and make plays where there usually wouldn’t be one, and not rely as much on their ranged shooting, which can often run through Bracker-Sturm’s strong presence in the paint. 

And the factor that works in tandem with the team’s pace and offensive firepower is the family-Esque relationships that the players have with each other. It has made the bond between teammates more comfortable and trusting than in the past. Senior captain Amaya Marshall emphasized that the team is the closest they’ve been in her four years, and it makes a difference.

“I know a lot of teams talk about having a family atmosphere,” Marshall said. “But these girls are truly like my family. I come to school, they’re the people I talk to first. When I leave school, I’m with them all day.”

This in turn creates a team that isn’t focused on their individual goals or how many points they can score, it’s a true team-first focus. The biggest supporter of this mindset is head coach Jeff Dickson, who believes that the family feel teaches lessons that can’t be learned elsewhere.

“We emphasize those things more than we do winning,” Dickson noted. “Thinking outside of yourself and having empathy more times than just at practice or a game.”

Coach Dickson has built on those same concepts by developing a program that teaches players to win on and off the court. In addition to finding ways to be the best student athletes they can be, they are encouraged to serve their community outside of school.

“We want to have good citizenship,” Dickson said. “We want to be servant leaders. We want to go out and set a really good example for the kids in our community and the people in our school, and represent ourselves well.”

That consistent encouragement and all-around emphasis on being the best you can be has opened the door for Dickson to get the most out of his players day in and day out, and create the player-coach relationship that is crucial to any team hoping for success. 

This brings an added benefit too. It allows Dickson to be hands-off sometimes and allow his captains to call out things they believe need work, get the team’s energy up and hold them accountable, or talk to the team without coaches around, and be comfortable doing so.

“They set a tremendous example,” he said. “What we’ve tried to do is get them to the point where they can kind of run things without having me have to be heavy-handed and be the only voice in the gym.”

These factors are translating into their game, and it looks to continue. In both of their first two games, four players have scored in double digits, and in three of five games, the leading scorer has been a different person, leading them to sunflower league wins both home and away.

But it all leads to playing in March, and further than just sub-state. After struggling with COVID and injuries the last couple of seasons, the team is looking to dominate in the postseason and is eyeing a state championship.

“We want to play those sub-state games in the jungle,” Dickson added. “And I think a realistic goal for this group would be to get in the final four of the state tournament and give ourselves a chance to go all the way.”

If any team has a chance to do so, it’s this year’s squad. And they’re going to have fun doing it. The team is back at home with a game on January 10th, against Olathe East.

“I want us to have fun this year,” Marshall said. “This is my last year, and looking back on it, I want this to be fun for everybody and a successful season.”