They may be small, but Lions’ girls are big at heart
A rise up the Class 5A and Kaw Valley League ladders for the Lansing Lions’ girls’ basketball team now falls into the hands of KC Simmons.
Taking up the reigns of the program for the now-departed Christine Robinson, who brought the program back from some mediocre times, Simmons slides over into the big chair after being a varsity assistant.
He takes over a Lions’ squad that has plenty of talent back from an 11-10 team that finished 9-3 in the KVL before dropping a tough, sub-state opener at Topeka Seaman.
Simmons can call upon two returning starters in Regan Gatson and Megan Ernen as the seniors will be expected to take the Lions forward.
“Each have started since their sophomore year and have plenty of experience,” Simmons said. “Ernzen was a 1st Team All-KVL player and led the team in scoring last year. Gatson and Ernzen each averaged over four steals a game last year.”
Simmons also has junior Taylor Lang to count on, a super smooth player who came up big in a number of situations last year and who the coach expects to have “a big impact this year after seeing limited time behind upperclassmen the last two seasons. She has uncanny court vision and is a threat to score from both inside and out.”
Also, junior Gerenda Smith will see a larger role after leading the Lansing team in scoring over the summer.
Then come the challenges.
“Outside the four varsity returners our bench will have little to no experience at the varsity level,” Simmons said. “We do expect it to be a battle for playing time as players 1-15 will all have a chance to contribute in a variety of different ways.”
That doesn’t mean that the team is lacking in skills.
“The strengths of our team this year will be our experienced guard play,” Simmons said. “Both Gatson and Ernzen are two of the best defenders in the league, and probably the state. We will look to play an up-tempo style that is led by an aggressive swarming defense. We will look to score off our defense and in transition as much as possible.”
The Lions’ leaders are liking the direction the team is heading.
“We are looking pretty good, obviously we are off to a rusty start, but we have picked up the pace, the energy and the intensity,” Ernzen said. “We have been working hard and I can already see the improvements, defensively mostly. We are putting in a new defense so hopefully it will be more aggressive and successful this year, but offensively we have been working really hard as well.”
How are they going to overcome the lack of height?
“Even though we are shorter, we have a lot of speed to back it up and are really scrappy,” Gatson said. “We know we are not the tallest team so we are trying to have everyone’s back. Box outs are really important.”
“We have to be fundamentally sound, because if you do it right, it doesn’t matter how tall they are,” Ernzen said. “We have to stay in the game no matter what, even if we start off rusty or slow. It’s knowing how to drive yourself to do better, to push harder, to go faster even when you feel like you can’t. Do it for your team and not yourself.”
A potentially, wide-open KVL race could make things interesting for a team that still has a lot of work to do.
“Our lack of size is going to be a problem all season,” Simmons said. “We will struggle each game to win the rebounding battle and defending true post players. Rebounding will be an emphasis from day one and hopefully we can drill into the players the importance of it and they will take pride in becoming better rebounders.”
The season will be made through hard work and effort win or lose.
“It’s about never giving up, having perseverance,” Gatson said. “It’s about playing every game like it’s the last game.”
2017-18 Lansing Girls’ Basketball Schedule
Friday, Dec. 1 HOSTS Bonner Springs (G 5:45/B 7:15 p.m.)
Tuesday, Dec. 5, HOSTS Shawnee Heights (G 5:45/B 7:15 p.m.)
Friday, Dec. 8 at Seaman (G 5:45/B 7:15 p.m.)
Tuesday, Dec. 12 at Turner (G 5:45/B 7:15 p.m.)
Friday, Dec. 15 vs. Bishop Ward at KCKCC (G 5:45/B 7:15 p.m.)
Wednesday, Dec. 20 HOSTS Blue Valley Southwest (G 5:45/B 7:15 p.m.)
Friday, Jan. 5 at Piper (G 5:45/B 7:15 p.m.)
Tuesday, Jan. 9 at Basehor-Linwood (G 5:45/B 7:15 p.m.)
Thursday, Jan. 11 at Blue Valley, 7 p.m.
Friday, Jan. 12 HOSTS Tonganoxie (G 5:45/B 7:15 p.m.)
Monday, Jan. 22 - Saturday, Jan. 27 at Wellsville Tournament
Friday, Feb. 2 HOSTS Bishop Ward (G 5:45/B 7:15 p.m.)
Tuesday, Feb. 6 HOSTS Piper (G 5:45/B 7:15 p.m.)
Friday, Feb. 9 at Tonganoxie (G 5:45/B 7:15 p.m.)
Friday, Feb. 16 HOSTS Turner (G 5:45/B 7:15 p.m.)
Tuesday, Feb. 20 HOSTS Basehor-Linwood (G 5:45/B 7:15 p.m.)
Friday, Feb. 23 at Bonner Springs (G 5:45/B 7:15 p.m.)
Tuesday, Feb. 27 Sub-State Playoffs begin
March 8-10 Class 5A state tournament