Focusing on the big picture

Park Hill South girls getting through tough stretch with eye on postseason

Park Hill South girls basketball coach Jenny Orlowski wants her team to win every game it steps on the court to play. Heading into this week, the Lady Panthers had won 10 of its 19 games, so Park Hill South has been mostly successful. But, South has been on a bit of a tailspin recently, with losses in four of their last five after a tough 54-45 setback to North Kansas City in the consolation game of the Northland Classic at NKC High School last Friday night. After the game, Orlowski lamented the loss and her team’s recent struggles as it pertains to the win-loss ledger. But she also pointed out that her team is playing hard and getting ready for the postseason. “We want to give it our all and be improving every game and I think our team is doing that,” Orlowski said. “The focus is on finishing out our very tough schedule strong, and getting ready for the district tournament.” Orlowski said the fact that South will have played every team in its district at least once before the Class 5 District 15 Tournament, set for March 1-8 at Staley High School, is a positive. “There won’t be many secrets when the district tourney comes around,” she said. Included in the Class 5 District 15 bracket are North Kansas City, Park Hill, St. Joseph Central, Oak Park and host Staley. South has already faced NKC and Oak Park twice and will have played rival Park Hill and St. Joseph Central twice by the time the season ends. If South faces NKC again, it will have to figure out a way to slow down the Hornets’ Kianna Lane. The sophomore sharpshooter hit five three-pointers in the victory against South last week, including four in the first half when NKC bolted to a 20-7 lead. “She killed us the first time we played them (a 50-43 loss on Dec. 9),” Orlowski said. “They came out shooting very hot and we didn’t.” South withstood NKC’s first-quarter blitz and slowly worked its way back into the game behind its senior leaders, Samantha Roy and Morgan Keesee. Keesee scored 10 of her game-high 17 points in the first half and South finished the second quarter with a 7-2 that pulled it to within 30-24 at the break. The Lady Panthers picked up where they left off in the third quarter and trailed just 43-40 heading into the final stanza when Keesee hit a three at the buzzer. South got within four points or less several times down the stretch but couldn’t quite catch NKC, who hit enough free throws down the stretch to keep the Lady Panthers at bay. “We have a bad habit of getting down early,” said Keesee, who added six rebounds to her 17 points. “We always come back, but we need to start faster.” Roy finished with 12 points, four steals and three assists, while Mackenzie Stout chipped in with nine points. Lane led NKC with 16 points, while Aries Washington added 15 points. South was scheduled to host Truman Feb. 11 before playing host to rival Park Hill Feb. 14.