Free State High senior point guard Jackie Dubois stole the show on Thursday night.
Dubois scored a team-high 12 points and added five steals to pace the Firebirds to a 56-40 season-opening victory over Kansas City Wyandotte at the FSHS gym.
"Jackie's great," FSHS coach Craig Hershiser said after the Firebirds improved to 4-0 all-time against the Bulldogs, 3-0 in home-openers and 3-0 in season openers under the third-year coach.
"What'd she play tonight? Maybe 31 minutes. We took her out a little bit there at the end of the first half, but we know that we're going to get a lot of minutes from her and she's going to give us great effort every minute that she's out there," he added.
The massive minutes can be attributed to Dubois being a well-conditioned athlete. After all, she is a two-time Class 6A state medalist in cross country. Then again, that overabundance of energy turned out to be a hindrance when she missed two free throws late in the rout.
"I'm just so wound up and going hard that when I get to the line I need to relax a little," Dubois said with a laugh, "take a breath."
On the other hand, the senior was 6-of-8 shooting.
"No, I didn't know that," Dubois said. "I didn't really expect that to happen so that's a good surprise."
But she was the exception rather than the rule for Free State, which finished 21-of-60 shooting (35 percent) from the floor and 14-of-26 (54 percent) from the free-throw line.
The Firebirds started slow, not taking their first lead until senior forward Christina Neighbors' free throws with 1:30 to play in the first quarter. Neighbors finished with 11 points in her first varsity start.
Free State also received 11 points from senior guard/forward Katie Rhodes on 4-of-18 shooting.
"She had some tough shooting luck out there," Hershiser said. "But she still gave us great effort on the boards and a lot of hustle diving for loose balls."
Rhodes scored her first points of the season from the free-throw line as part of a 19-2 run by the Firebirds, sparked by a free throw from junior guard Megan Dougherty (seven points) to break a 14-14 tie with 5:49 remaining in the second quarter.
Free State grabbed its biggest lead at 50-25 with 5:49 to play, but the Bulldogs bit back, closing on a 15-6 spurt.
"Physically we're not in the shape we should be in and it showed," said Wyandotte coach Christopher Cooper, whose squad committed 29 turnovers compared to Free State's 15. "Other than that, the girls fought. They fought very hard."
FSHS junior forward Emily Yessen scored eight points on 3-of-5 shooting off the bench. Free State was without the services of senior center Joyia Chadwick, senior forward Lauren Wilkinson and senior guard Kristin Bock who all were suspended for missing "an excessive number of practices."
Up next for the Firebirds (1-0) is Emporia, which finished fourth in the state last year, on Thursday in the opening round of the Tipoff Classic at Olathe East.
"I know Emporia's there and I think they're ranked third," Dubois said. "That will be a good challenge, to see if we can step up and play with them. So I'm excited about that."
In the junior varsity game, Free State (1-0) bolted to a 33-6 lead by halftime and cruised to a 79-12 victory. The Firebirds were led by sophomores Nicole Berry (15 points), Jayme Lisher (14) and Amber Hinton (12).