Olathe Chuck Law was simply being candid when he remarked that Olathe Northwest might have overlooked his Free State High boys basketball team earlier this season.
Regardless, the Firebirds went into Northwest’s gym and blasted the Ravens, 57-43 on Feb. 11, to earn what Law dubbed a “signature victory” by topping one of the Sunflower League’s best teams.
“It’s going to be a much different game this time around,” Law said of tonight’s rematch, a first round sub-state game at 7 p.m. at O-Northwest.
The Firebirds (12-8) played perhaps their best all-around game last time against the Ravens, but are now without injured senior and leading scorer Eric Watson, who drove to the basket at will and poured in 20 points in the first matchup.
But players such as Alec Heline, Brett Frantz, Georgi Funtarov and Evan Manning have each done their part to make up for Watson’s absence on offense.
Law said he fully expects the Ravens (16-4) to be boosted by the return of their coach, Mike Grove, who missed the first matchup, and is well aware of the challenges posed by 6-foot-10 center Willie Cauley and slashing guard Shavon Shields, among the other talented ONW players.
“I don’t think we’re going to catch them off guard,” Law said.
FSHS enters sub-state play as the No. 6 seed in a tough bracket, and even if it can knock off No. 3 seed Northwest again, a difficult road to the state tournament remains.
For now, though, the mentality over at the Firebirds’ practice is simple.
“Right now it’s just survive and advance,” Manning said.