Good golly. This long holiday basketball hiatus for Free State HIgh’s girls was supposed to end on a better note than where the team left off.
Instead, the Firebirds’ return to the court in the new year left them feeling significantly less than jolly.
Seventeen days since playing its cross-town rival to a nailbiting finish, Free State allowed by far its highest point total this season Tuesday night in a 53-35 nonconference home loss against Platte County, Mo.
The Pirates became the first team to score more than 40 points against the Firebirds’ down-tempo style of play.
“They’re just a better basketball team than we are,” Free State coach Bryan Duncan said. “We have to find ways to score on offense. We’re not a very good offensive team right now, and it certainly showed tonight.”
Free State played zone defense all night and did manage to control the game’s pace in stretches, particularly in the first quarter.
Junior Chantay Caron provided an early lift for the Firebirds, scoring her team’s first six points, including a layup at 5:28 of the first quarter to give Free State an early 4-3 lead.
The advantage — and the snail-like tempo of the game — was short-lived.
The Pirates went back in front a minute later and never trailed again. Platte County implemented a full-court press, forcing 13 Free State turnovers in the first half.
In a battle of future NCAA Div. I centers, Platte County’s Morgan Johnson got the better of Free State’s Ashli Hill as well. Johnson, a 6-foot-5 University of Iowa commit, scored 17 points and hauled down 12 rebounds, causing even more matchup problems for the Firebirds when Hill went to the pine with foul trouble. The 6-4 Hill, who orally has committed to Oklahoma State, picked up her third foul with 6:11 left in the second quarter.
“I thought it was going to be a good matchup tonight,” Caron said. “It was just who could come out and be bigger and play smarter.”
Senior Ashleigh Allam picked up some of the slack for Free State, scoring seven points and providing much-needed leadership with Hill on the bench.
Free State turned the ball over 20 times and fell to 2-3.
The Firebirds are scheduled to return to Sunflower League play Friday night at Olathe North.