Tricia Lillygren permitted herself a few minutes to smile Wednesday evening.
But for most part the Lee’s Summit North girls basketball coach kept her businesslike demeanor following the Broncos’ 55-53 upset of second-ranked Truman in the Class 5 sectionals at the Independence Events Center.
“I’m still in focus mode,” she after the game while her players celebrated in the locker room.
Before Wednesday’s stifling defensive effort that limited the Patriots to 30 points through three quarters, North (22-5) had dropped five straight to Truman dating back a few seasons. But like their coach, it didn’t take the Broncos long to shift focus to today’s 1 p.m. state quarterfinal game against North Kansas City (19-9) at IEC.
A win would send the Broncos to the state tournament for the first time since three straight trips in 2000-02, the last one netting a state title.
“We’ve had two really good practices,” Lillygren said Friday. “It wasn’t long into practice the next day that we got down to business. We had a nice focused practice.
“That was a big win – you can’t deny that – but at same time our job’s not done. We’ve got other goals, and North Kansas City is in the way of that.”
As usual, the onus for victory lies in her team’s defense, Lillygren said, followed by rebounding and free throws.
“I think we understand what we need to do,” she said. “They’ve played some great games against our conference opponents.
“They’ve got tremendous shooters,” she said of the Hornets, “and they’ve got the ability to penetrate. Those two things are really deadly.”
The most lethal Hornet is senior Aries Washington, a UMKC recruit who had a team-high 19 points in the team’s sectional win over Lee’s Summit West.
“She’s so versatile; she does so many things,” Lillygren said. “She can dribble penetrate, hit from outside – you can’t really key on one thing from her. We keep preaching that with our guards. You can’t be predictable, and I don’t think Aries is predictable, as well.”
Senior forward Imani Johnson, a Southeast Missouri recruit and North’s all-time leading scorer, averages 17.5 points, and senior point guard Erica Nelson (16.3) paced the win over Truman with 17 points and seven assists. Senior forward Jaden Powell, senior guard Stevie Anderson and sophomore guard LaChelle Parks round out the starting five, and freshman forward Aaliyah Johnson has been key off the bench in the postseason.
“We’re going to need to access our size,” Lillygren said. “We are the bigger team, and we need to make that to our advantage.”