Olathe It didn't go in, but it sure didn't go unnoticed, either.
Dain Dillingham's alley-oop pass to Keith Wooden just seconds into Free State High's 65-47 boys basketball victory over Olathe North on Friday didn't count on the scoreboard, but it still served quite a purpose.
"We lost the game last week," Wooden said, "and we were out to show that we were for real."
The Firebirds' aggression came out just after the opening tip and didn't stop for 32 straight minutes. With last week's 60-53 loss to Leavenworth fresh in their minds, the 18-point road victory over the Eagles on Friday meant a lot more than it normally would have.
"We emphasized effort all week long," FSHS coach Jack Schreiner said. "I was very pleased tonight."
Wooden, after missing his first attempt, didn't miss much more, finishing with 21 points on 7-of-10 shooting.
Despite being guarded most of the night by Olathe North 7-footer Tyler Hughes, Wooden was unfazed, combining a powerful inside game with soft touch on his free throws and long jumpers.
"I thought he did super," Schreiner said. "Not to take anything away from (Hughes), but until late in the game, he was really a non-factor."
Hughes finished with 11 points, nine in the second half, and three blocked shots.
He also drew four fouls, allowing Wooden to go 7-for-11 from the free-throw line.
"I feel I played well," Wooden said. "I've played against guys taller than me before. It's really not a big deal."
Free State (5-1 overall, 2-1 Sunflower League) broke away in the second quarter, holding the Eagles (3-4, 0-2) to just four points. Firebird's pesky defense limited Olathe North to 31 percent shooting overall.
FSHS returns to action Tuesday, playing at home against Olathe South.
"The team we play Tuesday is very smart," Schreiner said. "They won't make a lot of mistakes."
Olathe North girls 39, Free State 38
One measly point was all that separated Free State from its first conference victory.
Olathe North used clutch free-throw shooting and a sensational sophomore to come-from-behind late and top the Firebirds.
A loss is always discouraging, but FSHS coach Bryan Duncan said this one was somewhat encouraging, too.
"We felt like we could've and probably should've won," Duncan said, "but the mistakes we made tonight are mistakes we can live with."
Free State (1-5, 0-3) caught the Eagles (4-2, 2-0) on a bad night. Olathe North standout Tamara Whitaker, who averages 24 points a game, missed her second straight game with a bruised pancreas suffered before Christmas. It may have been a prime opportunity to knock the wounded Eagles down, but North showed it had other options. Sophomore Janet Simpson, who finished with 18 points on the night.
"We knew Simpson was an excellent player," Duncan said. "Tonight, she proved herself to be one of the premier sophomores in the league."
Simpson had all but two of her points in the second half. With her team tied or trailing, Simpson almost seemed to score at will. She put O-North up 36-34 with a minute to play by weaving through defenders and hitting a point-blank layup. The Eagles never trailed again.
Jamie Stanclift led the Firebirds with 15 points on 6-of-11 shooting. Kirby Beneventi scored six points, four on free throws down the stretch to keep Free State close.
The Firebirds travel back to Olathe to take on Olathe South on Monday.