Olathe Free State High's boys basketball team hopes the third time is the charm tonight against Olathe East.
The Firebirds (7-13 overall, 2-8 Sunflower League) will face the Hawks (11-9, 5-5) for the third time this season in tonight's Class 6A sub-state game. Tipoff is 7:30 p.m. at the Olathe East gym.
The defending state champion Hawks have defeated the Firebirds 72-52 in the third-place game of the Emporia Tipoff Classic in December, and 62-46 in last Friday's regular-season finale at East.
"We've got something to prove," FSHS senior center Dijon Dillon said. "Anytime you've been beaten two times by a team and you're going in to play them a third time, you've got something to play for. We've got something to prove this third game. We can't let them sweep us this year.
"The next game is the most important one anyway. The first time we played, it didn't mean much. But this is to see who goes on."
Dillon, who scored a team-high 10 points in Friday's game, will make his return to the starting lineup for the first time since knee surgery on Dec. 28. Sophomore center Pat Krivoshia, who missed the regular-season finale with a broken bone in his finger, won't start tonight but will play.
The bizarre twist in tonight's sub-state meeting not only is the fact that these two teams already have played twice, but also the fact that they just played a week ago.
"It's obviously easier than it normally is," FSHS coach Jack Schreiner said of preparing for the back-to-back meeting. "Except that you know they're going to throw something at us that they haven't used yet. At least you think they will."
Au contraire, Schreiner's counterpart said.
"I think I showed everything we had and Jack showed everything they had," Olathe East coach Jim Super said. "Unless I've been scouting poorly and he's been scouting poorly. I don't know, I've never played and then turned around before and played the same team.
"I expect it will be a good game."
A common thread in the Hawks' two prior wins was the play of junior guards Jay Danner and Thomas Vincent, who combined to score 59 points on 21-of-26 shooting -- including 12-of-23 from three-point range -- in the two games.
The Firebirds' answer to the Hawks' dynamic duo could be assorted defenses ranging from man-to-man to zone to possibly even a triangle-and-two formation.
The only thing for certain is that Free State probably will pull out all the stops tonight.
"If we had to play these guys in a series, I'm not sure we'd have much of a chance," Schreiner said. "But in a one-game shot, I'll take my chances against anybody."
-- Robert Sinclair's phone message number is 832-7185. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.