Archive for Saturday, December 1, 2001

Firebirds effective inside and out in season-opening bashing of Blues

December 1, 2001


Free State High's shot chart looked fine and dandy following Friday night's season opener against Topeka Washburn Rural.

The Firebirds scored down low with junior Keith Wooden and beyond the arc with junior Neil Dougherty and senior Andron Cruse en route to an 83-67 victory over the Junior Blues in the FSHS gym.

Wooden, a 6-foot-9 forward-center, scored 18 of his 21 points in the first half. In the second half, Dougherty, a 6-1 point guard, took control, scoring 18 of his team-high 23 points and tied a school record with seven three-pointers.

"It felt good to see that our outside kids could come in and produce," said FSHS coach Jack Schreiner, confident Wooden could control the paint. "Washburn Rural did a great job stopping our inside game in the second half."

In the second half, Free State shot 80 percent from three-point range (8-for-10). Dougherty was 6-for-6 beyond the arc in the final two quarters and Cruse was 2-for-4.

Ahead 47-46 with 3:22 left in the third quarter, the Firebirds, who never trailed, closed the period with a 12-5 run on four three-pointers. Cruse popped a trey from the wing to ignite the run and Dougherty followed with three consecutive treys.

"Coach told me to take advantage of my open looks because they started doubling down on Keith," Dougherty said. "I had to step up and hit a couple to take the pressure off him."

Wooden, who made six of eight field-goal attempts in the first half, was limited to just two shots in the final two quarters while being plagued by foul trouble.

"I opened up the outside shooters in the first half," said Wooden, who snared a team-high 10 rebounds. "That's something we've been working on in practice, getting the ball inside and kicking it back out."

Afterward, Dougherty couldn't wait to call his father, Neil, an assistant for the Kansas University men's basketball team. The KU aide is with the Jayhawks in Arizona, where Kansas will play today.

"He doesn't like to hear about my points most of the time," the Firebird guard said. "He'll probably be more concerned about the six turnovers I had."

Sophomore Dain Dillingham, Free State's first player off the bench, scored 13 points in his varsity debut.

"The kid can play," Schreiner said. "I'm very, very impressed with him. He's gotten better every day in practice. I think this was huge for him and built up his confidence."

Cruse also scored in double figures, finishing with 10 points. Cruse had six assists to lead the Firebirds.

The Junior Blues were led by 6-4 senior Ryan Koontz, a transfer from Statesboro, Ga. Koontz scored a game-high 27 points on 11-for-17 shooting, including three dunks and a 25-foot three-pointer.

"Koontz is a player ... oh my goodness," Schreiner said. "Where did he take that one (three-pointer) from."

With the victory, FSHS improved to 5-0 all-time in season openers. All five wins have been against Rural.

Free State also tied a school record for points scored in a game, matching last year's total against Rural.

"We're very excited about this team," Wooden said. "We think we have a chance to do a lot of good things this year."

Next for the Firebirds is the KVOE Tipoff Classic in Emporia. Free State will open Thursday against Shawnee Heights. Tipoff is 3 p.m. at White Auditorium.

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