If Saturday night was a preview of what is to come for the Free State High girls basketball team, the Firebirds have plenty to look forward to.
Free State rallied from an early 13-point deficit and roared past Wichita Southeast, 72-65, at the FSHS gym, giving the Firebirds (7-11) their first two-game winning streak of the season.
Sure, they beat a team that dropped to 4-9 overall -- and they beat Olathe Northwest (1-17) Friday night -- but judging by the way the Firebirds jumped for joy after beating Southeast, you would have thought Free State had just won the sub-state championship.
Turns out, there was a reason for that.
"We talked about trying to simulate sub-state this weekend with the back-to-back games," FSHS coach Bryan Duncan said. "We needed to win last night to get tonight, and we needed to win tonight to get to state. I think that provided a little bit of fire and determination to our girls. We had a pretty big celebration afterwards.
"Hopefully it will prepare the girls for what we want to happen in two weeks."
The Buffaloes almost eliminated the Firebirds quickly, however. Southeast raced to an 18-5 lead in the first five minutes and hit five of its first six shots. That's about the time the jitters usually become too much for Free State to deal with.
Not Saturday night.
"For once this season we looked up at the scoreboard, saw we were losing, and we didn't feel hopeless," junior forward Jamie Stanclift said. "We felt like we were strong enough and had overcome enough adversity this season that we could come back."
Multiple baskets by Stanclift and senior Jenny Gwaltney turned momentum in Free State's favor. The pair combined for 24 points in the first half. Tricia Dunham drilled three treys in the third quarter and gave Free State the lead for good. She added two more in the fourth that cushioned the lead.
Stanclift finished with a game-high 24 points -- the most scored in a single game in FSHS history. Her 12 made free throws also were a school record. Dunham added 21 points off the bench, while Gwaltney chipped in 12 points and eight rebounds.
Ebony Phillips led Southeast with 16 points.
The Firebirds travel Monday to take on Shawnee Mission Northwest, then return home for their regular-season finale and senior night festivities Friday against Olathe North.