Shawnee Mission West High's boy's basketball coach Mike Brinsko didn't care there was more than 31*2 minutes left in the fourth quarter Monday night and his team trailed Free State by only three points.
His strategy was simple foul.
The Vikings were going to make the struggling Firebirds earn their first victory in nearly a month and a half from the free-throw line.
However, Free State (4-9), which had been inconsistent lately from the free-throw line, ripped apart Brinsko's game plan, hitting 13 of 16 foul shots down the stretch for a 51-41 victory, the team's first since Dec. 9.
"It's a great win," Free State guard Neil Dougherty who scored a game-high 15 points Monday said as he ran out of FSHS to catch the second half of the Kansas-Missouri game. "I just think they didn't think we would knock them down. But it feels great to make a team pay."
"That was a good strategy by Brinsko," FSHS coach Jack Schreiner said, "because we had been very inconsistent lately. Tonight we hit them when it counted."
For the first eight minutes Monday it looked as if Free State's worst start in school history would become even worse when SM West (8-5) hit seven of 13 shots and jetted to a 14-7 lead.
That trend soon reversed itself as the Vikings scored just 15 points over the next 191*2 minutes.
"You look great when those shots are falling though," Schreiner said of the Vikings' cold-shooting spell which included just three field goals in the second and third quarters.
Free State took advantage and took its first lead when a Dougherty floater bounced in off the rim with 6:34 left in the third.
SM West answered on its ensuing possession, but Free State took the lead for good when junior center Keith Wooden hit a hook shot with 5:48 to go in the third.
Wooden scored 12 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and had six blocks. He was one of four Firebirds to score eight or more points. Dain Dillingham added 10 points and Andron Cruse contributed eight.
SM West did make a final run to cut the lead to three with 3:33 left, but that's when Free State's work at the free-throw line took over.
"We had a lot tougher mentality," Dillingham said. "Free throws are a part of that, and we executed tonight a lot of the things we've been doing in practice.
The Firebirds will have a week to enjoy the victory before they play Topeka on Feb. 5 in the first of three straight home games.
"This is a great win to build off of," Schreiner said. "We finally played with poise late in a game tonight."