It’s been exactly three weeks since Free State High’s girls basketball team suffered its most painful loss of the season.
The Firebirds were up one point at Olathe South when the Falcons’ Megan Balcom drilled a cold-blooded three-pointer at the buzzer, giving O-South a 52-50 victory.
Said Free State senior guard Lynn Robinson: “We talk about it all the time. That three-point shot that they made against us just made us so bitter. We just can’t believe it went in.”
The dagger had the FSHS girls in tears in the locker room after the loss, and it was in that emotional moment that they started looking forward to a possible rematch.
They’ve got it at 5:30 p.m. tonight at Leavenworth High, with a sub-state championship on the line.
The first match-up between Free State (16-5, ranked No. 6 in Class 6A) and O-South (19-2, No. 5 in 6A) went so well for the Firebirds, senior guard Jackie Garcia said, that they’re hoping for a repeat performance, just with a better outcome.
The sentiment in the locker room after that loss, remains the same now — “We’d rather lose that one and win this next one,” Garcia said.
Free State coach Bryan Duncan said the entire team responded in like fashion to the loss at O-South.
“Anytime you play somebody and lose at the buzzer, you’d love to get the opportunity to play them again,” Duncan said.
The anticipation of the rematch, coupled with what’s at stake, junior guard Kennedy Kirkpatrick said, should make for a memorable showdown.
“It was definitely a good game the last time we played them, and I think everyone is really fired up to play them again, so it’ll be fun,” Kirkpatrick said.
When the Firebirds recall the first meeting, Robinson said the thing that annoys them most is the way the third quarter turned out. Free State led 31-21 at the half before the Falcons went on a 22-7 run in the third.
“We just have to make sure we play four very intense quarters against them and make sure we want that game,” the senior guard said, “because we want to go to state.”
There is no questioning how much Robinson, Garcia, Kirkpatrick, Abbey and Chelsea Casady, A’Liyah Rogers and Scout Wiebe have been looking forward to this chance. However, Duncan knows that alone won’t win the game.
“Certainly, we’d like to get a shot at them,” Duncan said, “but also we understand that we have to go do it. It’s easy to talk about.”
In the O-South win, Alex Hugo led the team with 12 points. Kylie Kopatich had 11 and Bailey Rinehart had 10.
Duncan said things could turn out better for Free State this time if they do a couple of things well.
“We’ve got to do a good job in transition defense on their run-outs,” Duncan said, “and we’ve got to do a good job on our shot selection.”
FSHS went 19-for-49 (39 percent) from the floor in the loss and 5-for-17 (29 percent) from three.
Robinson said the Firebirds can’t let O-South make a big scoring run tonight.
“This time,” she said, “we’re gonna extend the lead and we’re gonna win that game.”
Free State last went to state in 2010.