Millard North's Lauren West played for a state championship and got redemption

Millard North’s Lauren West scored 31 points and made 18 of 19 free throws in the Class A championship game. West said she had to “leave it all on the floor” Saturday after scoring two points in Friday’s semifinal win over Lincoln Pius X.

LINCOLN — Lauren West was playing for more than a state championship Saturday. The Millard North senior was also seeking redemption.

After a dreary performance in Friday night’s triple-overtime semifinal win over Lincoln Pius X, West scored 31 points and grabbed 13 rebounds to lead the Mustangs to a 62-52 victory over Lincoln Southwest in the Class A title game. It was quite a bounce back after scoring two points — nearly 12 below her season average — and fouling out against the Thunderbolts.

“After scoring two and I knew (Saturday) was going to be my last game, I had to come in and bring it,” said West, a UMKC signee. “Leave it all on the floor.”

West did. She notched a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds by halftime as the Mustangs (23-4) built a 34-18 lead at the intermission. The 5-foot-11 guard finished 18 of 19 at the foul line, sinking her final 18 attempts.

“I just attacked and, obviously, shot a lot of free throws,” said West, an 80-percent free-throw shooter for the season who was also 6 of 8 from the floor against Lincoln Southwest. “I felt on.”

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Millard North coach David Diehl said he guaranteed that West was motivated by her outing against Pius.

“Lauren is pretty focused,” Diehl said. “The look on her face at all times is, ‘I have a job to do.’ She’s businesslike.

“She is so committed — ‘I have this focus and this job’ — that when she doesn’t get it done, she’s hard on herself.”

Sometimes too hard, Diehl said.

“Lauren has up and down games — and that’s going to happen — but when she’s on and she’s committed, she’s pretty darn good,” Diehl said. “Her biggest obstacle is mental. Sometimes she wants it so bad that she’ll force things and make silly mistakes.

“So I pulled her over at halftime and said, ‘Hey, you’re dribbling too much. You’re forcing it a little bit. Just take what the game gives you,’ and she’s so talented that she’ll get a lot.”

Diehl said he has always been impressed by West’s drive and motivation to improve and win. That was apparent last year when the Mustangs were knocked out of the state tournament in the first round by Lincoln Southwest.

“We were in the locker room (afterwards) and the look in her eyes, I’ll never forget,” Diehl said of West. “It was steel and it was resolve and it was like, ‘I’m never losing again.’

“What a warrior — what a battler. I’d go to bat for this kid any day for the rest of her life.”

For West, knowing that she did her part to help Millard North win its first girls state basketball title was a satisfying conclusion to a standout high school career.

“It’s indescribable,” West said. “I’m so proud of my teammates. This is what we’ve been working for for four years. It’s amazing.”

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