A convincing 61-48 victory over winless Olathe Northwest shouldn't have given Free State High coach Jack Schreiner a reason to be angry, but he found one anyway.
The Firebirds closed the first half on a 15-0 run to grab a 19-point lead, but the Ravens claimed the first five points of the second half, prompting Schreiner to call a timeout and berate his team for what he said had been a seasonlong problem of starting the second half poorly.
"We always let the other team right back in the game. I actually called a timeout just so that I could holler and make myself feel better," Schreiner said. "I didn't do any coaching at all except screaming just so that they could get the point that I was upset."
It worked. Schreiner's team responded immediately with an 8-2 run to ensure it would remain in Class 6A's upper echelon as the regular season winds down.
The victory was punctuated by another commanding performance by Brady Morningstar, who led all players with 27 points.
O-Northwest coach Mike Grove said Morningstar was among the state's elite players.
"Brady Morningstar is a heck of a basketball player, and he makes everyone else better," Grove said. "He is a gem to have in high school."
But Friday's star almost was the Ravens' Nate Tenbrink, who singlehandedly kept his team in the game by hitting his first five three-point attempts -- his fifth put the Ravens up by a point early in the second quarter.
Free State's Danny Pike, who was guarding the post position, said he could only watch as Tenbrink's outside shots kept falling.
"It was pretty frustrating, because we were playing fairly good defense. But he was making them and keeping them in the game," Pike said.
The victory leaves the Firebirds needing only one victory to assure themselves of a No. 1 seed in the postseason. But they will face stiff competition in Shawnee Mission East, which also is among the state's best teams.
Grove said he left town with little doubt the Firebirds could do it.
"They're probably going to walk their way to the state tournament," Grove said. "Free State is a very good team that every team is scared of, and nobody wants to play them at sub-state."
Free State girls 45, O-Northwest 31
The Free State girls had little trouble dispatching O-Northwest, which was a good thing in part because the team came out sluggishly.
The Firebirds only managed eight points in the first quarter, half of which came from Jamie Stanclift's four free throws.
"There wasn't a lot of energy early on in the game. I'm not sure what created that," Firebirds coach Bryan Dunlap said.
Fortunately, Free State's languishing start was matched by O-Northwest, which ended the first quarter trailing by a point.
The Ravens would continue to flat-line the rest of the game, while the Firebirds picked up the pace. Free State closed out the first half with a 13-2 run and ensured its victory when the defense prevented O-Northwest from a single field goal in the fourth quarter, something Stanclift said she happily would accept at this point in the season.
"It was just kind of a sloppy game. They're never really that fun to play in, but we'll settle for this victory," Stanclift said. "We haven't had one in a while, and we needed one."