Kendrick girls basketball: Consistent offensive threat Kahlia Lawrence leads her team in stellar season

dmitchell@ledger-enquirer.comJanuary 17, 2013 

A year ago, the Kendrick girls basketball team went 17-11 and lost by 50 points to Buford in the first round of the state tournament.

The record wasn't terrible, but for a team accustomed to contending for state championships, the season was easy to categorize for coach Sterling Hicks.

"Horrible year," he said simply.

That was last year. This year, things are a little bit different.

Through 16 games, the team is unbeaten. Its closest game has been a six-point win over Central High, one of the better teams in the Bi-City area.

There are a handful of reasons for the team's resurgence, Hicks said, noting the progress of the sophomore class and its contributions on the offensive side of the ball. Defense is certainly a staple for the Lady Cherokees (16-0), who have allowed less than 30 points in seven games this season.

And then there is junior Kahlia Lawrence, the team's go-to offensive threat. Averaging 22.1 points per game, she leads the team in scoring and is constantly improving in the other facets of the game.

Her success and the improvement of the rest of the team has them thinking about big possibilities in 2013.

"The whole team is putting forth more effort," Lawrence said. "Last year was less than unacceptable. This year, we're doing everything we can to have good outcomes."

Translation: When the state tournament rolls around, this team has no intentions of bowing out early as it did a year ago.

Lawrence will have to play a big role if the team expects to meet that success. But playing a big role isn't always what she's looking for.

Hicks described Lawrence as a team player who wasn't an aggressive person by nature.

"She'd be happy if her role was just distributing the ball to other scorers," he said.

Lawrence, who has played ball since she was 5 years old, proved selfless when asked about the improvement she's seen in herself this season. In typical fashion, she deflected the attention to the team, noting how much the team, not she, has improved.

"I see improvement in myself, but I think our team as a whole is a lot better," she said. "I've gotten better at recognizing what the team needs and just doing whatever it takes for the team to be successful."

If that means scoring, she can do that, as evidenced by her points-per-game average. But, Hicks said, scoring points doesn't always mean taking shots, something that Lawrence has gotten better at as well.

"For us to win games, she has to be in a primary role," Hicks said of Lawrence. "Her scoring points doesn't always have to be putting it in the bucket though. Sometimes, it's finding open looks for her teammates."

Whatever the case, Hicks just wants to see her continue to improve her level of aggressiveness.

"She can be incredibly aggressive when she has a mind to do it," he said. "She doesn't feel like she has to be the one scoring points all the time, but we always want her to stay aggressive."

Being aggressive takes plenty of work, both in practice and alone, Lawrence said. Knowing what to do with the ball takes confidence, something built up over hours of playing.

That part of her game has never been a problem. Lawrence and Hicks both noted the amount of work that goes into her game.

In addition to practice every day, she lives near a gym that she can go to to work on things that she doesn't get enough of in practice.

She's happy to do it, for one, because she loves the game. It's one part about the game, though, that makes it all worthwhile.

"I love the game -- everything about it," she said. "And, of course, I love winning. That makes the work worth it."

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