Free State High's 17-3 season and Sunflower League boys basketball championship wasn't a fluke.
But as the Firebirds begin Class 6A sub-state play tonight against winless Olathe Northwest, FSHS coach Jack Schreiner wants to make sure his players realize that opportunities like this don't come around that often.
"We brought up to them yesterday that seniors, this is your last chance, and underclassmen this may be your best chance," Schreiner said. "Let's not waste it because we don't come ready to play."
Tipoff will be at 6 p.m. in the Free State gym.
Schreiner starts five seniors, and he does not want to see them perform like they did in the first three quarters of Friday's 53-44 victory at Olathe North.
Until an alley-oop from senior Matt Green to senior Brady Morningstar on the fourth quarter's first play, the Firebirds had been flat.
"If we can't come out with more emotion," Schreiner said, "then I'm really unhappy with our kids."
The 0-20 Ravens played the Firebirds close two weeks ago, finally bowing, 61-48.
The Ravens handled Free State's customary press easily in the first meeting and it resulted in open looks for Northwest's Nate Tenbrink, who hit five three-pointers in the first half.
|BOYSToday's GamesBracket AOlathe Northwest (0-20) at Free State (17-3), 6 p.m.Olathe East (9-11) at Leavenworth (11-9), 7 p.m.Bracket BOlathe North (4-16) atO-South (15-5), 7 p.m.Topeka (5-15) at Lawrence (13-7), 7 p.m.Friday's GamesOlathe Northwest-Free State winner vs. Olathe East-Leavenworth winnerOlathe North-Olathe South winner vs. Topeka-Lawrence winnerGIRLSThursday's GamesBracket AOlathe Northwest (3-17) at O-South (18-2), 7 p.m.Free State (8-12) at Leavenworth (11-9), 7 p.m.Bracket BOlathe North (4-16) at Olathe East (13-7), 7 p.m.Topeka (8-12) at Lawrence (11-8), 7 p.m.Saturday's GamesO-Northwest-Olathe South winner vs. Free State-Leavenworth winnerOlathe North-Olathe East winner vs. Topeka-Lawrence winner|
But the FSHS seniors aren't thinking about the previous meeting.
"It's not going to be a close game (today)," Green said.
As for the Free State girls, they will not have the luxury of opening sub-state play at home, even after a gutsy 49-46 victory at Olathe North to finish the regular season at 9-11.
The Firebirds will play at Leavenworth (11-9) on Thursday night against a Pioneers team that handed them a 58-42, defeat Feb. 11. In that game, Free State's leading rebounder, junior Banaka Okwuone, left with an injury early in the second half, and senior Jamie Stanclift played the game while fighting off illness.
In their regular-season finale, Free State did just about everything but put the ball in the basket. The Firebirds forced North into 28 turnovers and controlled the glass.
"We're really focusing on the defensive end of the floor. We've stressed all year long that defense ultimately wins games for you," Free State coach Bryan Duncan said. "Friday night was a huge win for us, because we were able to finish a game at the end."
If the girls win, they'll return to Leavenworth on Saturday for a second-round game most likely against top-seeded Olathe South. A win by the FSHS boys tonight will send them to Leavenworth on Friday night to meet the winner of tonight's Olathe East-Leavenworth contest.