Archive for Monday, March 5, 2007

Sorrentino: Harrison unflappable in clutch

March 5, 2007


— With 35 seconds left in Saturday's Class 6A girls sub-state championship game, I asked myself: If Lawrence High brought a massive circus to the Olathe Northwest gym with the intent of breaking Kelsey Harrison's concentration at the foul line, would it actually work?

I thought about it and came to a simple conclusion: Absolutely no chance.

Bring on the old school Acme Brick signs. It wouldn't matter.

The fact is there's nothing anyone can do to distract Harrison in clutch situations. She's truly the Russell Robinson of the Free State High girls basketball team - the glue that holds the team together.

Free State led Lawrence High by six when the senior forward stepped to the line with 35 seconds remaining Saturday. So much for the two-possession game. Harrison calmly sank both free throws and helped the Firebirds defeat the Lions for the third time this season.

Free State fans surely remember the second FSHS victory against LHS in the raucous atmosphere of the "Jungle." With about a minute remaining, Harrison drained two free throws to give Free State a three-point lead.

Saturday was no different. Harrison got to the line as many times (10) as Lawrence's entire team.

Her secret sounds so simple.

"There's nobody there, so you might as well make them," Harrison said of making free throws. "Once they foul you, you just need to stay focused and tell yourself you can make them. Don't pay attention to anything else."

Senior guards Lauren Kimball and Jenna Brantley typically produce the majority of the Firebirds' scoring. Harrison can't drive to the lane like Kimball or stroke the three-pointer like Brantley. But no Firebird has the body control like Harrison around the basket. She frustrates opposing players by getting them in foul trouble and converting free throws.

Furthermore, I'm surprised Harrison's picture isn't next to the "versatile" entry in every dictionary in America.

Harrison can play virtually every position on the floor. She's an above-average ball handler and a mismatch for most post players because of her combined height (5-foot-11) and speed.

During practices, Harrison pulls a double shift, participating in individual drills with guards and posts.

"Sophomore year, I began as a post," Harrison said. "I played post in previous years, too. These last couple of years, they put me in the middle so I'm able to do guard and post. I like it. ... I like to shoot."

What makes Harrison even more crucial to Free State's success is on the opposite end of the floor.

"I think glue is a great word for her, but another good word for her is glove, because she's an excellent defender - our best defender by far," Free State coach Bryan Duncan said.

Duncan typically puts Harrison in a position on the floor to guard the opposing team's best player. Harrison held Lawrence junior guard Danielle Bird to six points Saturday.

Free State's been a consistent team for most of the season and deserves its state berth. If you make the trip to Emporia and you're not a Free State fan, don't try to mess up Harrison from the foul line - it won't work.


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