Bob Lutz: Wamego sisters a dominating duo
SALINA — Lanee Page has spunk. She’s 15 and already a junior at Wamego because she skipped the eighth grade. It wasn’t challenging enough.
She plays basketball without a map, often going off course but always winding up in a safe place. She averages a team-high 17 points and seven rebounds. And she’s been known to scuffle with the team’s other outstanding player — her sister, Kaylee.
“We don’t guard each other much at practice anymore,” Lanee said. “Last year we did that a lot. During a close-out rebounding drill, I shoved her so hard she fell. Then she came back and closed me out really hard and shoved me down.”
It got so bad that the coach had to kick them both out of practice. The coach, Jim Page, is their father. He sports a flat top and dresses in blue jeans almost all of the time, including during games.
“I started coaching these girls way back, in 2001 or so,” Jim said. “We’ve been able to find a pretty good balance over the years. I can’t really remember any incidents that were a problem.”
Well, except the one.
But it didn’t amount to that much. By the time Lanee and Kaylee got home after their scuffle, Lanee said, they were laughing about it.
“We get really intense when we play basketball,” she said. “We like to push each other and make each other better.”
Kaylee, a senior, has already signed to play at Nebraska. She’s 6-foot-3 and spends most of her time close to the basket, although she’s capable of scoring from the perimeter. Lanee is 6-2 and more comfortable near the three-point line, although she can take her game inside. Both are well-rounded, versatile, outstanding players. Kaylee was an All-State player last season.
“I’ve honestly loved playing with my sister,” Kaylee, who averages 15.9 points and 6.9 rebounds, said. “It’s so much fun. We always give each other a hard time and we might have a fight in practice. But it’s OK. It’s not really that physical, just more talking back and forth and stuff.”
In the games, though, there is always unison. Wamego won its 38th game in a row Wednesday night at the Bicentennial Center, beating Mulvane 51-40 in a 4A-Division I tournament game to improve to 23-0. The 4A defending champs haven’t lost since dropping a one-point game to Hillsboro in the finals of the Hillsboro tournament last season.
“Their games are similar in some regards,” Jim Page said of his daughters. “But also very different. Kaylee (13 points, 12 rebounds against Mulvane) is a little more cerebral on the floor. You hear coaches all the time talking about a player being an extension of their coach on the floor.”
Lanee, who had 27 points and seven rebounds Wednesday, should be a sophomore. But when she was ready to start the eighth grade, she was bored. Students frequently test out of a class or two here and there; she tested out of the eighth grade and will graduate next spring when she’s 16.
“I’ve talked to some college coaches and a couple of them want to redshirt me when I get to college,” Lanee said. “But I don’t know if that’s what I want to do, I just want to go and play. I don’t really feel like I need to get back to my age group. I like the challenge, although I know college basketball is going to be a lot different.”
Wamego has other good players, Jim Page said. You don’t win state championships or 38 games in a row with just two. But the Page sisters are the stars.
“The biggest challenge this season has been replacing the experience we lost last year with the four seniors we had,” Jim Page said. “We had some kids who were role players who have had to step up and play major minutes.”
The Page sisters could have more impressive numbers, but Wamego has won a bunch of one-sided games. So they’ve been on the bench for a lot of fourth quarters.
The 4A-Division I tournament is their last hurrah together — at least for a while. Lanee has a season to go at Wamego — no, she’s not skipping her senior year.
“I’ve never been on a basketball team without my sister,” she said. “Yeah, we’ve had our ups and downs, but it’s been great and next year is going to be rough. She’s only going to be two hours away at Nebraska, but it’s still really going to be different.”
Kalee tries not to think about anything beyond the moment.
“Of course leaving high school crosses my mind,” she said. “But I’m really not sure how to approach that or what to think, so I just try and avoid it.”
Kalee said she signed with Nebraska because she loves the coaching staff and the academic environment. She thinks her sister would love Nebraska, too.
“I’d love her to go there,” Kalee said. “But I want her to go where she’s happy.”
Despite that shoving thing, there is definitely sisterly love.