Free State High girls basketball and close losses go together like the pancakes and syrup being served at the pancake feed next door to the Firebird gym on Saturday morning.
In the fifth-place game at the Firebird Winter Classic, Kansas City Schlagle eked out a 47-42 victory over the host Firebirds. FSHS (4-8) has lost six games by eight points or less this season.
"It's frustrating and I think the kids are frustrated too," FSHS coach Craig Hershiser said. "The important thing for us is we don't let our frustration get in the way of our performance."
Free State led the Stallions, 37-36, with 4:26 left in the fourth quarter when senior guard Lauren Wright made the second of two free throws. Schlagle (10-3) scored five unanswered points and the Firebirds never recovered.
"We have to get better at closing out," Hershiser said. "We had chances to take control of the game. We had them in a one-and-one and a double-bonus situation. We were a little impatient offensively. If we had done a better job with our offense, we would have created more situations to get to the foul line more."
Schlagle also capitalized on several offensive rebounds to keep possessions alive.
"We have to somehow find a way to remember to block out so we could get defensive rebounds or an over-the-back call," Hershiser said.
Wright scored 18 points on 6-for-12 shooting to lead the Firebirds. Her three-pointer from the top of the key with 1:28 left pulled Free State within one, 41-40. The Stallions, who were sent to the losers' bracket with a 49-46 loss to Lawrence High on Friday, went on a 6-0 run to seal the victory.
"We need to play all the way to the end and play smart," Wright said.
Wright finished with five three-pointers to match the school record she set in Friday's 52-38 victory over Tonganoxie. Wright, who had 11 three-pointers in the three-day tournament, has 28 three-pointers on the season, one shy of Katie Rhodes' school record of 29 treys.
"I think we were a lot more focused and intense in this tournament," said Wright, who had 49 points in the tournament to lead all Free State players. "The win (over Tonganoxie) gave us confidence and I think we were a lot more focused in this tournament compared to other games."
Senior guard Stacie Garland contributed 10 points for the Firebirds.
Free State shot 32.6 percent from the field (14 for 43).
KC Schlagle was led by senior point guard Tamra Cobbins. The University of Texas recruit scored a game-high 21 points on 7-for-15 shooting from the field and 7-for-8 shooting from the line.
Schlagle played without senior guard Marchelle Campbell, a Syracuse signee. Campbell was taking an ACT on Saturday.
Free State will return to Sunflower League action on Tuesday. The Firebirds will travel to Shawnee Mission West for a 7 p.m. tipoff.
"I see parts of our game getting better and some of our players are getting more comfortable on the court," Hershiser said. "It's not too late to get better, not too late to redefine yourself. That has to be our mindset.
"We have to keep believing in each other."
KC Sumner 63,
Olathe North 59
Senior Carlai Moore scored 19 points and senior Donica Jackson added 14 points to lift KC Sumner (7-4) past Olathe North (8-5) in the third-place game. Tamara Whitaker scored 22 points to lead the Eagles. Kara DeNoon chipped in 19.
KC Wyandotte 38
Tonganoxie, the smallest school in the tournament, rallied for a four-point victory over KC Wyandotte to place seventh.
The Chieftains (4-9) outscored the Bulldogs 9-2 in the fourth quarter. THS senior Alicia Stauch scored seven of her eight points in the fourth quarter.
THS senior Aimee Eisman scored a game-high 13 points, including 10 in the first half. Senior Andrea Korb chipped in 11 for the Chieftains.
Wyandotte (3-9) was led by Kema Meeks and Christina Hughes, who scored nine points apiece.