Free State High girls basketball coach Bryan Duncan knows most everyone in his position — preparing to face an opponent with a losing record in the first round of sub-state — would say the same thing: This team really is better than its record.
Unlike some coaches, Duncan might have a point about Olathe North (5-15), which plays at FSHS (15-5, ranked No. 9 in Class 6A) at 7 tonight.
When the Sunflower League coaches convened in the preseason to predict where each team would end up in the standings, no one thought the Eagles would only win one league game.
“The vast majority of people predicted Olathe North to really move up the ladder in the league,” Duncan said.
That’s because O-North has 6-foot-4 senior forward Jessica Sheble, a Kansas State University signee who often produces double-doubles.
“She can do some damage inside on both offense and defense,” Duncan said, “so we’ve just got to make sure we contain her.”
The Eagles typically play a 2-3 zone and try to slow the pace. Still, Duncan, whose Firebirds won, 53-42, at O-North on Feb. 15, said the FSHS rotation — Kennedy Kirkpatrick, A’Liyah Rogers, Chelsea Casady, Scout Wiebe, Abbey Casady and Millie Shade — will look to push the ball, as always.
LHS facing O-South
Only once this season has an opponent found a way to beat Olathe South (18-1), a No. 1 seed at sub-state and the No. 2-ranked team in 6A. So Lawrence High coach Nick Wood has a long list of concerns today, as his Lions (3-17) try to topple the Falcons at O-South (tipoff at 7). Lawrence’s No. 1 priority will be finding a way to contain O-South sophomore guard Kylee Kopatich.
“She handles the ball for them, she shoots the ball, she makes all the girls around her better,” Wood said. “So we’ve got to find a way to minimize her looks and try to take away as much as possible if we’re gonna have any chance.”
LHS has lost 11 of its last 12 games, but Bri Anderson, Kionna Coleman, Emma Kelly, Kylie Seaman, Anna Wright, Marissa Pope, Jolana Shield, Makayla Bell and Imani Simmons have experienced successful stretches in games. Wood said they’ll have to draw upon those at O-South.
“We’ve had games this year where we’ve played really quality opponents and had stretches where we’ll play really well for one or two quarters and either be leading in a game or at least be competitive,” Wood said. “But in those games we have that quarter where we fall apart or the other team steps up their level of play, and that’s where they hurt us.”