Bonner Springs You could have heard a pin drop, but nobody needed ear plugs Friday afternoon in the Bonner Springs physical education center.
Tomb-like atmospheres are typical during afternoon games at basketball tournaments.
"That's why we challenged the kids to bring our own enthusiasm," Free State High girls coach Bryan Duncan said.
Bring it the Firebirds did in burying Lansing, 59-29, in the first round of the Metro Prep Classic.
Free State swarmed all over the overmatched Lions, forcing 13 first-quarter turnovers - nine in a row during one stretch - on the way to a 15-3 lead.
"We spent most of our time this week in practice working on defense," Duncan said. "We hardly worked on offense at all."
As it was, the Firebirds didn't really need to set up in a halfcourt offense very often, as many times as they were fast-breaking after Lansing turnovers.
"Our goal was to take them out of their game," Duncan said, "and create offense with our defense."
Guard Lauren Kimball, who sparked the Firebirds to the championship of the 2005 Metro Prep Classic, turned in a game-high 15-point performance.
"We had the three o'clock game, it was a school day and there weren't many people here," said Kimball, a 5-foot-7 senior, "so we knew we had to come out with intensity, and that's what we did."
Soph Taylor Manning came off the bench to add 12 points, and senior Jenna Brantley chipped in with 10. None of the starters played in the last six minutes. Duncan pulled the plug with a 53-17 lead.
Lansing, a Class 5A school with less than half the enrollment of Free State, was led by Brittney Lang with seven points.
"You always want to play in the semifinals in these tournaments," Duncan said. "It's no fun playing in the Sunshine League in the losers bracket."
Free State will meet Topeka Seaman in a tourney semifinal at 6:30 p.m. today in the high school gym. Seaman knocked off Savannah, Mo., 43-41, in Thursday's other afternoon semi.
If the Firebirds win tonight, they'll play in the championship game at 4:30 p.m. Saturday in the phys ed center adjacent to the high school.
"I think there is pressure on us," Kimball said about Free State's status as defending champion, "but there's always pressure on you to do good."