Even after surviving one of the most bizarre, skin-of-the-teeth endings imaginable, Lee’s Summit North girls’ basketball coach Tricia Lillygren maintained a been-there, done-that attitude.
That’s easy to do when you’ve been coaching the same program for 23 years and have more than 400 victories to your credit. It’s also easier when you have a starting lineup with four veteran seniors.
That experience brings level-headedness and that, more than anything, is the reason why the Broncos are still standing after a wild 47-46 overtime victory against No. 1-ranked North Kansas City during a Class 5 sectional game March 7 at the Silverstein Eye Centers Arena in Independence.
North (21-5) now will face Liberty (21-7) at 1 p.m. on March 10 in a quarterfinal game at Silverstein Eye Centers Arena as it seeks the program’s first trip to state since 2014.
Never miss a local story.
With so much on the line, it will certainly be another high-pressure game, but that’s nothing new to these Broncos.
“We’ve had a lot of these kinds of ballgames,” Lillygren said. “They’ve had a lot of experience and they held it together. We didn’t lose our heads and we kept playing.”
North kept it together even after Aiyana Johnson was whistled for an offensive foul as the Broncos inbounded the ball with 4.9 seconds left in overtime and a one-point lead.
North Kansas City (25-3) missed a jumper, but Hornets junior Chandler Prater was fouled by Tiana Gipson as Prater tried a putback. Prater, the Hornets’ leading scorer, went to the line with 0.5 seconds showing on the clock.
“I thought we would be doing good if we played another overtime,” Lillygren said. “If she went 50 percent on those two shots, that would be our break.”
Chandler, who already had 26 points, missed both shots, and the Broncos could breathe a sigh of relief — even if some of them weren’t exactly sweating it out.
“We already won the game,” said Johnson, who led North with 16 points. “We knew just to stay calm and I knew that my teammates all had each other’s back. We knew that, at the end of the day, we were going to win that game.”
Lillygren said North won the game in the third quarter, when the Broncos overcame a sluggish first half and held a long and athletic Hornets team to five points on 2 of 15 shooting. Prater made only 1 of 8 shots as the Broncos turned a 22-17 halftime deficit into a 30-27 lead.
“Our first half looked like one of our first four or five games of the season,” Lillygren said. “We had to get back to making it look like the way we’ve been playing lately and they came out in the third quarter and did just that.”
North played NKC to a 44-44 tie after a back-and-forth fourth quarter, a tie that wasn’t secured until the Hornets missed three shots just before the end of regulation.
Micaela Dickerson put North ahead for good when she drove the lane with just over a minute left in overtime, but she had to wait while the referees huddled before giving her the basket and an and-one.
Dickerson missed the free throw, but Alexis Griffin swiped the rebound and passed the ball to Gipson, who was fouled with 33 seconds left. Gipson, who scored 11 points, made one of two shots and the Broncos had a 47-44 lead.
North Kansas City coughed up the ball on its next possession, so the Broncos lead seemed secure until Hornets forward Mackenzi Callaway stole the ball at midcourt and raced in for a layup with 10 seconds left, setting up the frenzied finish.
“We had one more break or had one more good thing happen than they did,” Lillygren said. “I’m just so proud of the kids for the way that they held together. We did what we needed to do.”