Coach Pete Logan
It took until the 4th quarter, but the Gardner-Edgerton High School girls basketball team finally found their distance shooting range to beat back a late charge from the Lawrence Lions and claim a 48-34 home win Friday night at Gardner-Edgerton High School Gymnasium.
“It’s going to sound super simple,” said GEHS head coach Joe Leiker after the game, “but the number one thing is we were finally able to hit some shots. We struggled with that all night. We haven’t been shooting very well, and we didn’t tonight. Once we saw a couple fall, it did wonders for our confidence. It helped that we got some rebounds. We finally put together a few possessions in a row where we did things we wanted to do at both ends of the floor.”
Indeed, the game was a scrappy — sometimes messy — affair for much of the first three quarters of the game. Both teams played tight man-to-man defenses early, and each defense caused several empty possessions by the other team’s offense. Defensive rebounds, deflections, steals, and forced turnovers seemed to be the order of the evening through the first 24 minutes.
Trailblazer junior center Kiersten Markos gave the home squad their first lead of the game at 5-3 with a bucket in the post. GEHS junior point guard Kaelin Platt would later put the Blazers up for good when she sank a top-of-the-key three with a minute and a half left in the 1st quarter to make the score 10-7. The first frame ended with Gardner-Edgerton on top, 11-8.
Blazer freshman forward Aaliyah Moss gave the home team their biggest first half advantage when her post bucket made the score 17-10 in the 2nd quarter. However, baskets were scarce for both teams in the period, and the Trailblazers went into halftime with just a 6-point lead at 18-12.
Gardner-Edgerton began to stretch their advantage early in the 3rd quarter. First, senior swing player Sage Lickteig nailed a 3-pointer 30 seconds into the second half to make the score 21-12. A minute later, Lickteig followed her three with a finger roll layup that put the Blazers up by 10 at 24-14. GEHS sophomore post Sariyah Williams kept the advantage at 10 minutes later, when her bucket in the paint made it 27-17. Trailblazer junior shooting guard Kaylah Newman then drained a trey from the right corner that gave the home squad a 30-17 edge and a new largest lead. The 3rd quarter ended with the Blazers on top 32-20.
However, the Lions were determined to claw their way back into the game and started the 4th quarter on a 7-0 run, cutting the Blazer lead to 5 at 32-27. That’s when GEHS sophomore combo guard Abri Leiker took control.
Leiker went on an 8-0 scoring run that salted away the game for Gardner-Edgerton. The Blazer guard first laid in a drive from the right side to make the score 34-27, then followed that with back-to-back left corner threes, putting the Trailblazer advantage back up 13 at 40-27. The Lions would close to within 11 late in the game, but GEHS sophomore point guard Brenley Cunningham finally put a dagger in the Lawrence comeback, when her left corner three gave the home team their final margin of victory, 48-34.
After the game, Joe Leiker spoke about Abri Leiker’s 4th quarter spark.
“She’s such a hard-nosed competitor,” Coach Leiker said. “Great athlete. I think that she just tried to find that extra gear where she could go by people, and then — once she hit a shot — she got a little confidence, and she stopped thinking and started playing, and great things happen when she does that. It was great to see that kind of click for her.”
Leiker led all Blazers in points with 9, to go with her 4 rebounds. Senior forward Sofia Semon added 7 points, 2 assists, and 2 steals, Lickteig added 6 points and 2 boards, while Moss had 5 points, a team-high 4 rebounds, and 2 steals. Platt also had 5 points to go with her 2 assists, Markos contributed 4 points and 2 boards, Cunningham had 3 points and 2 caroms, Newman recorded 3 points and a team-high 3 assists, senior guard Lauren Havlik notched 2 points and 2 boards, Williams collected 2 points and 3 boards, and senior post Mara Smith had 2 points.
With the win, the Trailblazers improved to 2-1 on the season.