Coach Pete Logan
The Gardner-Edgerton High School girls basketball team ran into a team that was playing its best basketball of the season in Saturday afternoon’s Kansas 6A Sub-State Championship game at Olathe West. The Owls of West overpowered the Trailblazers on their way to a 66-31 win.
“They’re a good team,” said GEHS head coach Joe Leiker of West after the game, “and they’re cooking on all cylinders right now. They play really fast, and we knew coming in that stopping their transition would be the number one thing. We did it okay early, but then we had a few lapses, and then a few lapses turned into a few more. They’re the kind of team that — because of that pace and because of just how good they are — can kind of snowball on you really fast.”
The Blazers did indeed handle the pressure and pace of the Owls early. West opened up in a trapping defense, attempting to force the Gardner-Edgerton players into corners and use the out-of-bounds line as an extra defender. However, the Trailblazers found the open player when the Owls double-teamed another and earned some quality looks at the basket.
GEHS junior point guard Kaelin Platt opened the scoring in the 1st quarter when she splashed a three-point basket from the left side off an assist from senior forward Sofia Semon, making the score 3-0 Blazers. Junior point guard Abrianna Leiker gave Gardner-Edgerton their next lead 45 seconds later when she sank a baseline jumper from the left side that made the score 5-3. A minute later, Blazer senior guard Sage Lickteig notched a putback basket off an offensive rebound that Gave GEHS a 7-5 advantage. Moments later, Abrianna Leiker again put the Trailblazers up by three when she drained a trey from the left corner off a Lickteig dish, making the tally 10-7 GEHS. With just over three minutes left in the quarter, Blazer junior wing Kaylah Newman converted a layup from the left side that put Gardner-Edgerton up 12-9. However, the Owls ended the quarter on a 12-0 run and took a 21-12 lead into the 2nd quarter.
The momentum stayed with West in the 2nd quarter, as they opened the frame on a 14-1 spurt. By the time the quarter had ended, the Owls had built a 24-point lead, going into the halftime break up 42-18.
After allowing the Owls the first two baskets of the 3rd quarter, the Blazers went on a 7-0 run by pounding the ball inside. GEHS junior center Kiersten Markos scored the Blazers first 5 points of the run while sophomore point guard Brenley Cunningham punctuated it with a putback off an offensive rebound that made the score 46-25. However, that was as close as the Traiblazers would get the rest of the way, as West would eventually claim a 66-31 victory.
After the game, Coach Leiker talked about the impact his outgoing seniors — Lickteig, Semon, Lauren Havlik, Mara Smith, and Morgan Smith — had on the program and how they had helped improve the team from 3-18 two years ago to the Sub-State Championship game in 2021.
“They have meant the world to us,” Leiker said. “That’s what we were talking about in the locker room. We’ve been through some tough times together. We struggled that first year; got a little bit better last year but still had some tough losses. We kind of figured some things out, and they stayed with it. They’re all five just great kids off the floor as well. They bought in on the court. Through their skill, their leadership, and their ability to keep us all together and keep us moving in the same direction, took us to a level we hadn’t been to before.”
Abrianna Leiker led all Blazer scorers in the game with 7 points to go with 3 rebounds. Lickteig racked up 5 points, 5 boards, and 2 blocked shots, Markos also collected 5 points to go with 4 rebounds, while Platt notched 4 points and 3 caroms. Cunningham recorded 3 points and 5 boards, while Havlik, Newman, and Mara Smith had 2 points each.