Kendrick's Kahlia Lawrence is a reluctant star

School's all-time leading scorer shies away from limelight

dmitchell@ledger-enquirer.comFebruary 22, 2014 

Kendrick girls basketball star Kahlia Lawrence had an eventful birthday last Tuesday, and it wasn't just the red velvet cake she got to share with her team.

Her team won its region championship to maintain its perfect record and clinch a top seed for the Class AA playoffs. Her 24 points in the game were enough to earn her the nod as tournament most valuable player, an honor she can add to the regular season top-player distinction she had already been given.

A day later when coach Sterling Hicks tallied her total career points, it was discovered that she had broken the school's all-time scoring record of 1,970 points, previously held by Vanessa Graham (1979-83), the night before.

In the team's first-round playoff victory over Model on Friday, Lawrence scored 18 more to bring her career total -- done in only three years at Kendrick -- to 2,000 points on the dot.

It also gave her 673 for the season, a single-season school record. Then again, she was only breaking her own mark. On the season, she's averaging 27.3 points, 7.1 rebounds and 6.4 steals per game.

The list of individual accolades could go on. But she'd rather it didn't.

Told of her accomplishment on Wednesday in front of a camera, Lawrence sported an embarrassed sort of grin, shook hands and went back to doing what she does best:

Playing basketball.

"She just wants to fit in," Hicks confirmed of his senior star. "It's hard to do that when you're scoring so many points. People are going to notice. But she doesn't want to do anything to draw attention from her teammates."

What she wants is for the team to take the next step. A year after it lost in the final four to Laney, cutting a perfect season short, Lawrence said she doesn't just want to just get close to a state championship. She wants to have her red velvet cake, and eat it too.

"This year, we're not taking close as an answer," she said.

"We've worked too hard. We lost just two seniors (from last year). We've brought back a good team, and I think we can do it."

The Lady Cherokees cane take the next step when they host Westminster at 6 p.m. Monday in a second-round game.

A state title is the only thing missing from her impressive resume. Right now, the team has matched its start from last year. At 27-0, the Lady Cherokees are ranked at the very top of Class AA.

They've done it with stingy defense -- Lawrence had 10 steals in the region finale last Tuesday -- leading to a potent offense led by Lawrence.

But she knows none of it matters if they can't withstand the increased competition deep in the postseason.

"Luck," she answered with a laugh when asked what it takes to win a championship. Sure, it takes a lot of talent and even more hard work, but it's nearly impossible for a team to win it all without catching a few breaks.

"It is going to take some luck," Hicks confirmed. "We're good enough to win it when we're making our shots. Sometimes we don't make all our shots, though."

Like Friday, when Kendrick took a relatively small 31-20 lead into halftime. It pulled away in the second half, but would it have had a chance against the kind of competition it will face in the quarterfinals and deeper?

"We're trying to win," Hicks said. "We're going to play good teams. As far as you go, you're going to keep playing better teams."

If her team could win it all, though, Lawrence struggled to put into words what the feeling would be like.

"If we could do that, without me even doing what I'm doing, it'd just be amazing," she said.

"The state championship is just the ultimate goal."

It's the only goal.

Everything else is just a distraction.

"We don't talk about it," Hicks said of being ranked No. 1 in the state right now. "We want to be No. 1 at the end."

That, Lawrence said, would be the icing on her cake.

David Mitchell, Follow David on Twitter @leprepsports or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ledgerenquirersports.

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