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High School Sports

High School Sports

Pressure packed: Wichita Heights ousts Free State girls, 64-45

Free State's Chelsea Casady, (32) is swarmed by Wichita Heights defenders Wednesday, March 10, 2010, at Emporia during the first-round game loss against Wichita Heights in the girls Class 6A state championships.

Free State's Chelsea Casady, (32) is swarmed by Wichita Heights defenders Wednesday, March 10, 2010, at Emporia during the first-round game loss against Wichita Heights in the girls Class 6A state championships.

March 11, 2010

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Free State girls fall in State opener

For the first time in three years, the Free State girls basketball team made the Class 6A State Tournament. The Firebirds didn't make the most of their trip to Emporia, however, falling by 19 points to Wichita Heights. Enlarge video

— Four minutes into the Free State girls basketball team’s Class 6A state tournament matchup with Wichita Heights, it was hard to imagine things going much better for the Firebirds.

Four minutes later, it was impossible to imagine them going any worse.

In a 240-second span, the Falcons — who would eventually roll to a 64-45 victory — unleashed a smothering press that allowed them to rattle off an 18-0 run, turning their one-point lead into a 24-5 advantage at the end of the game’s first quarter and promptly deflating any hopes the Firebirds might have harbored of advancing past Wednesday’s first round.

“We went right at them; (our girls) weren’t scared,” said Free State coach Bryan Duncan, whose seventh-seeded team trailed just 6-5 with 4:06 remaining in the first quarter. “But they found out pretty quick how big and athletic they are.”

Yeah, Wichita Heights, the tournament’s No. 2 seed after finishing the regular season 21-1, didn’t do anything to sully its reputation as one of the state’s top high school programs.

Consider: Thanks largely to the Falcons press, the Firebirds turned it over nine times in the first quarter alone. They struggled mightily merely to get the ball across mid-court, and when they were able to get it across mid-court, they managed just seven first-quarter shot attempts (compared to 18 for Wichita Heights).

“I felt we were ready to play,” said Free State senior Chantay Caron, who finished with a team-high 14 points and seven rebounds in her final prep game. “But by the looks of it, we weren’t.”

The disheartening thing was that the Firebirds knew what was coming.

They’d seen the film, knew the Falcons liked to turn up the pressure, force mistakes and then take advantage at the other end. And while they spent considerable time in practice this week attempting to prepare for it, there was only so much the team’s backups could do to simulate the kind of defense Free State saw Wednesday night.

“Nothing could prepare us for that,” said Free State senior center Ashli Hill.

And it wasn’t just the pressure. Entering the game, the Firebirds figured that if they managed to lock down the paint defensively, the Falcons wouldn’t be able to pull away with their three-point shooting.

Except that’s exactly what they did.

Wichita Heights hit three three-point shots in the first quarter, including two in a row that pushed their lead to 13-5, to quickly establish itself as a team that could carve up opposing defenses in a plethora of ways.

“That destroyed us,” said Caron. “We didn’t expect them to shoot like that at all. We were supposed to crowd the inside, but they came out and hit shots.”

Strange as it sounds, however, if it wasn’t for that 18-0 run to close out the first quarter, the Firebirds likely would have made a game out of it.

Free State matched Wichita Heights in scoring through the final three quarters, 40-40, despite playing much of that stretch without Hill, who spent extended periods on the bench in foul trouble. Once the initial shock of the Falcons’ pressure wore off, and they were able to get into their half-court defense, the Firebirds managed to score some points.

But their early deficit proved far too much to overcome, as they never got close in concluding a 15-8 season that, in the end, proved bittersweet.

“We made it to state,” said Caron. “That’s really what I wanted.”

Comments

mom_of_three 4 years, 9 months ago

After the first quarter, Heights was on cruise control. Any spurt that Free State had, Heights answered. Heights controlled the entire game. Free State scored what, 5-7 points in the last minute, when the subs for both teams were in, which makes the scoring appear more even that it actually was.

mom_of_three 4 years, 9 months ago

But hey, they made the tournament and gave it a shot.

MrATLHoops 4 years, 9 months ago

Great job girls on making it to state. When it comes to playing any kind of championship type of game you have to play your horses like their is no tomorrow. Give them a little water, a little rest and then put them back out there. It is due or die time. There is no tomorrow unless you win. Look like the other team's coach must have read my blog from the other day rebound, outllet, run and play great pressure defense. That is the key to winning it all. Tay great job on your effort and trying to get everyone else to follow along with the effort you put forth. To bad that it is over so soon. Hopefully your Number will get hung in the rafters for what you have done and accomplished in the three years you were at FSHS. Now it's time to get yourself prepared for your next step in life. Div.I college B- Ball. I know that you will do well like another number 23 in womens collge hoops from UConn. Always remember I have your back no matter what and may God Bless you even more.

mom_of_three 4 years, 9 months ago

Hey, I said they made it to the state tournament. And no, the LHS team did not play at its potential and I DID SAY THAT ALL YEAR LONG.
But to be truthful, the above article does make it seem like Free State hung with Heights after the first quarter, but they never really did. FSHS made an effort, finally made shots, and Heights had an answer for every single one. Unfortunately, a very inexperienced FSHS team ran into a very experienced Heights team

jayhawkself 4 years, 9 months ago

Since when does free state hang jerseys in the rafters. Hey Atlanta, this isnt Allen Field House. No player at Free State is going to get a number retired. And it sounds a little like you are calling some other girls out for their effort. They ran into a far superior team and might win 1-2 out of 10 against that team. Grandma, you say that at least Free State played above their potential. I hardly consider 13-7 regular season with 5 wins against 5A opponents, 2 of those regular season wins with some freshman that moved up, and a State Championship appearance that wouldnt have happened if not for 17 points from 2 freshman that moved up for the final 4 games of the season. They played to their potential and that is it, I agree that LHS played below their potential.

not_that_crazy 4 years, 9 months ago

I have heard FSHS described as under-performing for quite some time. Perhaps it is just expectations from having two D-1 prospects, but there were much greater expectations for this team for the past couple of years. I agree that they finally played up to their potential...too bad it took until the end of the season (and a resulting poor seeding) to put all the pieces together. Hope they are able to start off next year successfully.

jayhawkself 4 years, 9 months ago

Crazy, I agree, one or two more wins would have put them opposite heights and o-south in the first game. you just cant lose games early in the season and think that it doesnt matter.

shepdog 4 years, 9 months ago

What happened to the freshmen???????????

jayhawkself 4 years, 9 months ago

overwhelmed, its just a different game when you get to that level. couldnt handle the physical play and speed, but the upper classsmen didnt do alot better. anyway, good season.

Hop2It 4 years, 9 months ago

I caught highlights on Metro Sports of Sub-State, and they actually said that FS was expected to win because of their two star players. I was surprised by the statement because of their record...but they had their stuff together at the end of the season.
Depending on how you look at it, they peaked at the right time or finally performed to their potential. Regardless, they finished strong. Now its time for spring sports!

mom_of_three 4 years, 9 months ago

Interesting, Hop2it. I, too, would have been shocked to hear that. Wichita Heights is a powerhouse. 10 straight trips to state, 4 titles, and several girls also headed to D-1 schools. Heights even had a height advantage (with the exception of Hill as several matched up with Caron in size). Heights had not been playing its best ball recently, winning but not decimating foes, and they were determined not to do that in state. Once they had that run, Heights was not going to lose control.
FSHS did great to make it to state and something to build on for next year.

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