Overland Park Shawnee Mission West would have made Leif Ericson proud Tuesday night.
The No. 4-ranked Vikings pillaged Free State High's boys basketball team like their namesakes did years ago, bombarding the Firebirds, 84-55, at SM West gym.
``That's the best team we've seen all year and I hope we don't see anyone that good again,'' Free State coach Jack Schreiner said. ``I'll tell you what, we're a lot better than we were. If we'd have played these guys earlier, I'm not sure we would have scored.''
To a man, Free State (6-11 overall, 2-5 Sunflower League) matched up pretty well with SM West (14-2, 6-0). To a zone is a different story.
The Firebirds came out in a 1-2-2 zone, the Vikings' Garrett Wrecke promptly drilled two straight three-pointers. When Free State switched to a 2-3 zone, the onslaught continued as Wrecke and Ben Panos -- who scored 21 points apiece -- hit three more trifectas. In fact, SM West closed the first quarter on a 12-3 run en route to a 23-9 advantage.
``I'm so happy that we saw a zone,'' SM West coach Donnie Campbell said, ``because we haven't seen a lot of zone this year and I think we need to prepare against it.''
When the Firebirds came out man-to-man to start the second quarter, it sparked a minor surge as they cut the deficit to eight points at 30-22 with 3:22 remaining in the half.
But the Vikings answered, taking a 42-24 halftime lead after closing with a 12-2 run that included scoring off of an inbounds play with less than a second to play.
``I was real upset about the way we finished the half,'' Schreiner said. ``After digging a hole we had actually put ourselves back in the game and then we ... boom. I told them we want to learn, we want to play with them, we want to beat them in the second half. And we didn't do that.''
Although the Firebirds kept the game close during the third quarter as junior forward Jerrod Miller scored eight of his 12 points, the fourth quarter saw SM West erupt for 19 unanswered points.
``It's frustrating,'' Miller said. ``You know you're down and you know you might not even have a chance to come back. You just kind of start throwing up shots left and right.''
Led by senior forward Carlos Ramirez's team-high 15 points on 6-of-9 shooting, Free State actually finished the game shooting 51 percent from the floor. But SM West made 56 percent of its shots, including six of 14 three-pointers. The Vikings also converted on 22 of 27 free-throw attempts compared to the Firebirds' 2-of-3 performance.
The Firebirds will play host to SM North on Friday.
-- Robert Sinclair's phone message number is 832-7185. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.