Down three starters and a key reserve due to injuries, the Gardner-Edgerton High School girls basketball team knew they would have their work cut out for them Dec. 17 when they hosted Olathe North at GEHS Gymnasium. Despite staying with the Eagles in the game’s opening minutes, the visitors’ size, quickness, and experience proved too much for the Trailblazers, who fell to North 60-20.
The Blazers entered the game without junior starters Brenley Cunningham (guard) and Abri Leiker (guard), sophomore starter Aaliyah Moss (forward), and junior reserve Riley Pemberton (guard), who all had to sit due to injuries. That left Gardner-Edgerton head coach Joe Leiker with a thin varsity lineup and little room for error against a loaded Eagles squad.
“We just tried to keep it very simple,” said Laiker after the game. “The main focus was just to beat their press and get ourselves a chance on offense. With people kind of moving up into different spots, different levels, and only a couple of days to get that all together – you know there’s going to be some challenges and bumps. I thought we really battled hard – that first quarter, especially. They fought tooth and nail for everything, and – when we didn’t make mistakes – we gave ourself chances, and that’s all we can really ask. We just kind of ran out of steam late 2nd quarter – early 3rd quarter, and it just kind of went downhill from there.”
After the Eagles went up 2-0 in the opening minute, Trailblazer sophomore point guard Hannah Phipps put her squad briefly on top when she took a dish from senior point guard Kaelin Platt on a break, drove in for the layup, and was fouled. Phipps converted the free throw to put GEHS up 3-2 with 7:20 left in the 1st quarter. ONHS notched the next two baskets to go up 6-3, but Blazer sophomore shooting guard Rhiannon Folsom tied the game up at 6-6 when she took an assist from senior guard Ava Bojanski and drained a left corner trey with 6 minutes left to play in the quarter. The Eagles then went on an 8-0 run, before Gardner-Edgerton senior post Kiersten Markos stopped the bleeding when she grabbed an offensive rebound and deposited the putback into the basket to make the score 14-8. Two minutes later, Platt buried her own three – this one from the right corner off a feed from Phipps – to make the score 14-11. North added their own bucket at the end of the quarter and headed into the 2nd frame with a 16-11 edge.
The 2nd and 3rd quarters proved nightmarish for the Trailblazers, as they were outscored 39-7 in those periods. However, GEHS sophomore shooting guard Allie Jennings provided a ray of light at the end of the 3rd quarter, as she nailed a top-of-the-key three-pointer off a dish from Platt that made the score 55-18.
The 4th quarter was played with a running clock, and the Eagles emerged victorious, 60-20.
After the game, Leiker took note of the positives his team could glean from the game.
“I thought we stayed together,” Leiker said. “We talked about trying to control everything we could by continuing to play, regardless of what happened – good or bad, being positive on the bench, getting a lot of positive touches, and I didn’t see any bad body language. I didn’t see any pouting. I saw kids who were giving us the best they had and supporting their teammates, so that’s going to be a huge positive takeaway for us.”
Offensively, Gardner-Edgerton was led by Jennings, who collected 5 points and 4 boards on the night. Phipps also racked up 5 points in the contest, while Markos had 4 points and 3 rebounds. Platt notched 3 points and 2 assists, and Folsom recorded 3 points.
The loss makes the Trailblazers 1-3 on the season. The team will renew their 2021-2022 campaign in January.
Short-handed Lady Blazers fall to Olathe North