This has been a special week for Tricia Lillygren, as the postseason honors continue to roll in for the veteran Lee’s Summit North girls basketball coach.
Lillygren received her second Eddie Ryan Award Thursday night at the Greater Kansas City Basketball Coaches Association banquet at the College Basketball Experience in downtown Kansas City, and today she is honored at The Examiner’s 2013-14 Girls Basketball Coach of the Year.
She led her Broncos to a 24-6 overall record, a first-place 8-2 mark in the tough Suburban Big Six Conference and a second-place finish in the Class 5 state tournament.
Lillygren is the only head girls coach in Lee’s Summit North's history and four times has guided the team to the final four, winning first-, second- and two fourth-place medals.
“When you play a Tricia Lillygren-coached team, you better be ready to compete,” said Truman coach Steve Cassity, whose 25-2 Patriots saw their season come to an end with a Class 5 sectional playoff loss to the Broncos. “She always has her teams ready to compete.”
Lillygren knew her Broncos could be a special team this season, but she didn’t know how special until the season unfolded.
“We talked early in the season about all the potential this team had,” said Lillygren, who owns 338 career wins at North and in two seasons at Raytown South, along with five conference and four district crowns. “And we saw that potential develop early in the season. Then we saw the work ethic of the girls and knew we could have one of those special seasons that you don’t want to see come to an end.
“But what really made the season so special is the way the girls played their best basketball at the most important time of the year. They peaked late in the season and in postseason, and that’s what every coach dreams about.
“They really came together, and it was so special to be a part of it.”
Lillygren has coached some special players – like 1,000-point scorers Claire Coggins, Liz Pierson, Becky Haug and Christie Brown – and this year saw Imani Johnson surpass Coggins, a former two-time Examiner Player of the Year, as the all-time scoring leader in Bronco history.
“You certainly can’t win something like coach of the year without great players, and I have been blessed with many great players at Lee’s Summit North,” Lillygren said. “This year Imani became our all-time leading scorer and Erica Nelson had an amazing year.
“All our kids had a great year, and I want to share this honor with them and our assistant coaches. It is so humbling to win something like this. When you coach night after night against some of the best coaches in the state, it makes you a better coach, and I want all of them to know of the deep respect I have for them and their programs.
“We want to do it the right way at Lee’s Summit North, and I believe we do. This past season just ended, and I’m already looking forward to next year.”