Lane Lord remembers when he took over the Wichita Heights girls basketball program in 1995 at the age of 24. Lord had never really seen a girls basketball game before applying for the job. Twenty-one years later, with coaching stops at Heights, Barton Community College and Pittsburg State, he has seen his share.
He’s been one of the most successful around, too.
“I had grew up knowing I wanted to be a coach,” Lord said. “I played three sports in college and liked the coaching aspect of the game. I knew that I wanted to help develop players to their full potential.”
Heights was 89-8 in his final four seasons, including Class 6A titles in 2002 and 2003.
“Heights is where I got my start,” Lord said. “It’s what helped me boost my confidence. Once we got things figured out, we were hard to stop. I was thankful that I had great athletes to work with and we were able to do a lot of good things.”
Lord got the Pittsburg State job after a three-year stint at Barton, guiding the Cougars to a 77-21 (.786) record. Since taking over the Pitt State program in 2007, Lord has guided the Gorillas to a 183-89 record and a program-best 29 wins last season.
The Gorillas have had success with Kansas and Missouri players, as Lord likes to recruit local.
“Certainly Wichita has been huge for our program,” Lord said. “With our Wichita ties and the Missouri girls that we’ve been able to bring in has worked. We’ve been able to recruit around here and plug girls into our system.”
The Gorillas have qualified for the NCAA Division II tournament four out of the past five years and have made it to the Elite Eight twice in that span. Pittsburg State picked up their first NCAA Tournament win in 2012, advancing to the Elite Eight.
“These upperclassmen know what it’s like to be there,” Lord said. “We get to play in front of the best fans and play in the toughest league in the country and the girls take each game one at a time.”
Pittsburg State has two seniors, but both are a pivotal reason for the Gorillas’ success.
Lungwitz, a former Eagle All-Metro player from Maize High, averaged 7.6 points in 30 minutes. Herlocker averaged 7.5 points and 4.5 assists.
“Paige Lungwitz graduated from Maize and is a 4.0 student and has made big contributions for us during her three years here so far,” Lord said. “Hadyn Herlocker graduated from Girard and has been huge for our program. She led the country in assist to turnover ratio last season.”
It’s not just the two seniors that Lord is happy about.
Junior Mikaela Burgess (Webb City, Mo.) averaged 17.8 points and shot 42 percent from three-point range, giving Lord a scorer to build an offense around.
Newcomers Athena Alvarado (Heights) and Micaela Delagarza (Blue Valley North) figure to add scoring help as freshmen.
“We brought in a really strong recruiting class,” Lord said. “(Alvarado is) a left-handed player, which makes her more sneaky.”
The Gorillas will rely heavily on their backcourt, led by Lungwitz, Herlocker and Burgess.
“We’ll be very strong in the back court with those three girls,” Lord said. “We may have one of the most skilled backcourts in the conference. They’re all very smart players and make things happen that you wouldn’t think would.”