LVHS punches ticket to Saturday sub-state finals

They are a team that stands on its own against the weight of heavy expectations.

The Leavenworth High girls’ basketball team is a young bunch, devoid of a number of the prime time faces that set the program on a course for five straight Class 5A state tournament trips to Topeka, including back-to-back titles in 2014-15.

Yet, they are still Pioneers and this is their time to shine and despite Wednesday night’s sub-state opener not being of sparking quality, they got the job done and are one more win from making it visit No. 6, since 2013, to Topeka.

Behind Cierra Robinson’s 13 points and McKenzie Brown’s 12 points, No. 8 seeded Leavenworth (13-8) would use a big start to roll to a comprehensive 39-27 win over visiting No. 9 Pittsburg.

Next up is a Saturday sub-state final at No. 1 St. Thomas Aquinas (19-2) at 6 p.m. Aquinas has been the only team to beat Leavenworth in the postseason (2013, 2016-17) since the recent run of excellence began.

“It feels amazing, because we are a whole new team and a lot of people didn’t think we’d even get this close,” junior Pioneer Alyche Brown said. “To be here and to get the same opportunity to get to state against the same team we always see at state. I’d rather beat them now, than beat them later.

“You have to hit them back for all the times they beat us at state because it hurts. We can still fix a lot, because tonight wasn’t our best game.”

Leavenworth came out rolling, leading 13-2 out of the gate, settling for a 19-7 halftime lead and an eventual, 25-11 edge midway through the third quarter before the game settled into a back-and-forth affair and the Pioneers would hold on to advance.

LVHS head coach Derek Bissitt said his girls came out almost too fired up which caused them to lose the edge after an explosive first quarter.

“When you get a group and want to do well and come out with a lot of emotion, it's how you handle that emotion,” Bissitt said. “If you come out too high, you are kind of gassed because you put so much into it. We never seemed to get a second wind. We came out with a lot of energy and struggled to make some baskets because we are almost too jacked up…and you are going 90 miles-per-hour. 

“We didn’t get a lot of steals, but we made them run their offense clear out to half court. Our pressure did enough to disrupt their offense.

“I hope we can bounce back and play a lot better on Saturday because we are going to need to. We put ourselves in this (No. 8 seed) position with some close games we needed to go the other way. We were either going to play them Saturday or Wednesday at Topeka with how the records played out. Why not now? We have to go in as the underdog and go in with that Rocky Balboa mentality. We have nothing to lose and have to come out swinging and play as hard as we can. We just have to play a lot smarter than we did tonight.”