Coach Chuck Law said his team executed its game plan the best it has all season Friday night.
But when a team is dealing with the kind of losing streak that has hit Free State, sometimes even the season’s best performance is not enough.
FSHS lost its 15th consecutive game, the longest losing streak in school history.
“It’s worn on us tremendously all year long,” Law said after a 52-46 loss to Leavenworth. “You can only say to your team so many times that we’re going to get one. We need one. We need one desperately.”
Still, the Firebirds played without fear against a Pioneers team ranked in the upper half of the conference.
Guards Jake Miller and Nick Hassig each contributed six points in the first half, as Free State trailed just 23-19 at halftime.
“We were very excited, energized at halftime,” Law said, “and then we just couldn’t make a basket in the third quarter.”
In that quarter, Leavenworth outscored Free State, 13-3, to take a commanding lead.
But Firebirds point guard Sean Brown nearly led a miraculous comeback. Brown scored all nine of his points in the final frame, as Free State scored more points in the fourth (24) than the first three quarters combined (22).
“I hadn’t been doing anything but providing defensive plays,” Brown said. “I felt like it was time for me to step up my offense.”
The comeback fell short as the Pioneers wilted Free State at the free-throw line.
Miller led Free State with 17 points. Connor Monarez scored 10.
Free State will take on Shawnee Mission North on Tuesday in the Firebirds’ final home game of the season.
“I don’t know that there’s such a thing as a must-win until you get to the end of the season,” Law said. “But Tuesday’s about as close to a must-win situation during the regular season that we’ve ever had at this school.”