Lee’s Summit North girls basketball coach Tricia Lillygren knows the Broncos will have to do more this season than bludgeon teams under the basket.
She also knows it’s not the only thing her team can do.
North isn’t as big as in recent years, but they could be more balanced if Monday’s 73-60 home victory against St. Teresa’s Academy is any indication. While the Broncos still showed some inside muscle, they also showed some long-range accuracy as well.
“We definitely have to continue dispersing the ball and getting open looks, allowing everybody to be a part of that scoring,” said Lillygren, who is starting her 23rd season as the Broncos head coach. “It’s just like every other team every other year. You’ve got to find the right key — who’s going to be open that particular game and who are they leaving open? You’ve got to go find that person and that person’s got to come through.”
That person usually will still be 6-foot-3 senior post Aiyana Johnson, who scored 22 points mostly from the paint against the Stars, but the Broncos also have perimeter threats in senior guards Alexis Griffin, who hit two three-pointers and also scored 22 points, and Tiana Gipson, an O’Hara transfer who also had a three and finished with 11 points.
Johnson is the only veteran big girl for the Broncos now that sister Aaliyah has graduated and plays at Stephen F. Austin University in Texas, where Aiyana will join her next season. With 5-9 junior guard Anija Frazier sidelined until after Christmas break with an ankle sprain, it became necessary for the Broncos to find some added outside range.
“Teams are double-, triple-teaming Aiyana underneath and we’re just going to try to make sure our kids are active on the perimeter and find the open player,” Lillygren said “We can’t let a team get by with putting three defenders on one.”
Griffin helped prove that point early in the third quarter. She hit a jumper and two three-pointers during a 10-3 run that helped North surge to a 44-34 lead. She scored half her points in the period, which ended with the Broncos on top 51-41.
“She kick-started us a little there with some perimeter shooting,” Lillygren said of Griffin. “She kind of helps open up some things inside. I just thought we found a good vibe in there in several-minute pockets that was working for us.”
North pulled away in the fourth quarter by getting the ball inside and converting backdoor cuts. Johnson, Griffin and Gipson all drove the lane and scored as the Broncos opened up a 67-47 lead. North went 13 of 15 from the field during the fourth quarter and shot 62 percent for the game.
“I think it definitely has a lot to do with the trust and confidence we have in each other,” Johnson said. “We’ve been working on that and we’re growing, and I feel like that has shown on the court.”
North improved to 3-1 with its second win in a week against St. Teresa’s.
The Broncos previously beat the Stars 72-70 on Nov. 27 in the opening game of the Bronco Invitational. North won the tournament Nov. 30 by beating Notre Dame de Sion 51-41.