Someone mentioned to Lee’s Summit North coach Tricia Lillygren that her Lee’s Summit North Broncos might have a slight advantage over North Kansas City this afternoon in Class 5 sectional play at Silverstein Eye Centers Arena.
That’s because the last time her squad won a sectional contest, it happened at the home of the Kansas City Mavericks, Comets and Phantoms.
But Lillygren just smiled and shook her head.
“The last time we won a district title and played at Silverstein Arena, our oldest girls were in eighth grade,” said Lillygren, referring to her 2014 squad. “I guess our kids might have been in the arena for some kind of an event, but not for basketball. But that really doesn’t matter. We don’t care where we play, we’re just excited to still be playing.”
North jumped to an early lead and never looked back in a 57-43 win over crosstown rival Lee’s Summit West in the Class 5 District 13 championship last Friday at Raymore-Peculiar High School.
Aiyana Johnson led the Broncos with a double-double, scoring 21 points and grabbing 11 rebounds.
“We played one of the most complete games of our season,” Lillygren told The Examiner after the game. “I was proud of the strength and focus our girls displayed.”
Strength and focus are two main components of the season-long success of a 20-5 Broncos team that started out 3-3 but finished with a share of the Suburban Big Seven title. It was the opposite of last year's team that went 24-0 in the regular season and was upset by Belton in the district semifinals.
“Back when we were 3-3, we were still looking for some answers,” said the only coach in the history of the Broncos girls basketball program. “Our girls really began to play as a team. And we’re certainly battle-tested. If you can survive our (Suburban Big Seven) conference, you’re ready for anything you might face in the playoffs.”
Johnson, a senior who will join her sisters Aaliyah and Imani at Stephen F. Austin University in Texas in the fall, leads the Broncos, averaging 18.6 points and 9.1 rebounds per game. Tiana Gipson, a senior all-state transfer from O’Hara, adds 13.6 points and just under two assists per game.
“We have a strong team, and we’re going to need to play as a team against a physical and athletic team like North Kansas City,” Lillygren said of the 25-2 Hornets. “We’re going to have to defend. Period! That’s first on our list. And we have to take care of the ball. We can’t have turnovers that turn into points for the Hornets. It should be a great game – we’re all excited to get back to the arena.”