Overland Park Free State coach Chuck Law has told his players that, because of a deep roster, there will be times this season when he elects to play guys that have the hot hand.
No matter how far he went down his bench, Law couldn’t find a player that wasn’t having a great offensive night Tuesday, as the Firebirds’ reserves lifted them to a 56-50 victory over Shawneee Mission West.
“I thought everybody — one through 11 — did a really solid job,” Law said. “They did their roles and understood what they were supposed to do and asked to do, to help the team win.”
Free State’s non-starters combined for 32 points on 11-for-13 shooting.
That included Free State senior Gabe Patterson, who sat the first half for a violation of team rules. The 6-foot-3 center posted a team-high 12 points and five rebounds after halftime.
“A whole bunch of other people were knocking down shots, just getting it going,” Patterson said. “We just need to do this for the rest of the season.”
Patterson finished 3-for-5 from the floor ... and was the only Free State bench player to miss a field goal.
The Firebirds also received a lift from senior Tyler Self, who had sat the previous 2 1/2 weeks with an ankle sprain.
The 6-foot guard — who played at the point for the first time all season — contributed 10 points on perfect 4-for-4 shooting. That included one of the biggest shots of the game, a three-pointer in the final minute of the third quarter to end a 3 1/2 minute scoring drought and extend the Firebirds’ lead to 38-31.
“I was really pleased with how he played,” Law said. “He guarded really well tonight, too.”
Kyle McFarland added six points on 2-for-2 shooting with five rebounds, while Blake Winslow also hit both of his field-goal attempts.
After going into halftime tied at 25, Free State took control by picking up the defensive pressure. The Firebirds forced 10 third-quarter turnovers and held the Vikings to just six points during the eight-minute stretch while taking a 40-31 lead.
Free State forced 21 turnovers in all, which also led to some fast-break points.
“We know we have to do that,” Law said. “We don’t have what’s probably going to be a great halfcourt offensive team. We’ve got to get some stuff in transition and get some easy baskets.”
Free State (4-9) snapped a two-game losing streak and picked up its second road victory of the season.
“That’s a win we desperately needed,” Law said. “I’m very happy for our guys to get that win. They earned it.”