Leavenworth sophomore Aarika Lister barely made it through the handshake line before bouncing back to a screaming Pioneers huddle at center court.
She scored five of her team’s 10 points in overtime as Leavenworth hung on for a 52-47 victory against Sunflower League foe Shawnee Mission Northwest on Friday night in Leavenworth.
Lister finished with 13 points and knocked down a decisive free throw after a made basket that helped put the game out of reach.
“I got really excited when I made that and-one,” Lister said. “I knew we had it.”
The Pioneers held an eight-point advantage going into the fourth quarter, but Cougars forward Brenni Rose tied the score with 2:11 left in the game.
Leavenworth responded with a six-point run. But SM Northwest again tied the game at the free-throw line. This time, it came on a pair from Emalee Rose.
The Pioneers found their groove in overtime. They scored 10 of the last 11 points and made 6 of 8 free throws.
“When they came back to the huddle, we kept saying, ‘We’re fine, we’re fine, we’re going to get it. Stay strong with the ball and keep playing,’ ” Leavenworth coach Jordan Mellott said. “It was great.”
Lister pointed to the team’s emphasis on speed in practice as a major advantage late in the game. Lister happens to be the defending Kansas Class 5A state champion in the 100 and 200-meter dashes.
“We’re speedy, and Mellott has us running constantly,” Lister said. “We’ve got a lot of energy, and we get those pitch-ahead layups, which is easy scoring.”
Leavenworth did it all without starting point guard Terrion Moore, who sustained a hand injury against Lawrence earlier in the week. She is expected to return in three to four weeks.
Moore’s absence gave freshman Alyche Brown and junior Maya Cooper, who was playing her first varsity minutes, a chance to get some experience, and in a Sunflower League game.
The Pioneers may need some added contributions. They are two-time defending Class 5A state champions, but lost three Division I players from those teams in Tyler Johnson, LaTashia Jones and Rachel Blackburn.