The Free State High girls and boys basketball teams will both play in their home openers tonight against Shawnee Heights. The girls (1-1) begin action at 6 p.m. and the boys (1-0) are slated for a 7:30 tip.
Both Firebird teams are coming off of victories on Tuesday at Topeka Seaman High, where they weren’t at their best. FSHS coaches aren’t discouraged.
For boys coach Chuck Law, the optimism stems from his team overcoming mistakes to best a physical team.
The Firebirds played a mostly frantic first half on Tuesday, in which they shot 1-of-14 from three-point range, committed 12 fouls and were too loose with the ball.
But after the break, the Firebirds calmed down and put away the Vikings with relative ease. They took only four threes, and made three of them. They turned it over less, and played smarter defense.
“I thought we played really well in the second half,” Law said. “I thought we did some things in the first half that, I hope, are out of character for this team. I thought we handled ourselves particularly well down the stretch.”
On the girls side, coach Bryan Duncan and the Firebirds overcame an off-shooting night and a separate battle with the injury bug to eke out the win.
The team’s lone senior, Paige Rothwell, has missed the first two games, but is expected back next week. Junior Lynn Robinson may not play tonight because of a broken finger sustained on Tuesday night.
Others, like A’Liyah Rogers and Abbey Casady, have been dealing with lingering injuries and illness — leaving Duncan with a pretty short bench on an already young team.
That has left players like sophomore guard Kennedy Kirkpatrick, who scored a team-high 17 points on Tuesday, to take on an increased role.
“We obviously understand there’s still going to be some growing pains,” Duncan said. “But that doesn’t change expectations.”
Even tonight, where Duncan said he expects a big challenge against an athletic Heights team that returns four seniors from a season ago, including Div. I commit Cierra Ceazer.
“It’s strength on strength in terms of athleticism,” Duncan said.