The 10th-ranked Free State girls basketball team — without a player taller than 5 feet, 9 inches in the post — once again limited the scoring from taller and bigger foes, shutting down Shawnee Mission West’s offense in a 41-26 victory on Tuesday night at Free State.
“On the offensive end, we’re obviously limited in the post (because of height),” FSHS coach Bryan Duncan said, “but defensively, we’re not limited at all.”
Led by the swarming interior defense from seniors Abbey and Chelsea Casady and junior Scout Wiebe, Free State held West to 23-percent shooting overall (9-for-40) and 24-percent shooting from two-point range (9-for-37).
West’s two main offensive threats — forwards Marleah Campbell and Morgan Mauck – never got going. The 6-foot-1 Campbell had a team-high 10 points, but was just 5-for-15 from the floor, while Mauck had eight points on 2-for-12 field-goal shooting.
“Our defense is what won that game for us,” Duncan said. “That’s kind of become a staple for us.”
Duncan also was happy with perimeter player A’Liyah Rogers, whose ball pressure made it tough for the Vikings to get passes inside.
Free State persevered through an early shooting slump, missing its first five shots. The Firebirds trailed, 7-4, after the first quarter, making just two of 12 shots (17 percent).
Still, Duncan rarely raised his voice through his team’s early struggles.
“We have a very experienced team. We trust our players a lot,” Duncan said. “We’re going to have our moments that are good and bad. I think it’s important to stay calm as a coach to keep your players calm.”
Duncan’s faith was rewarded, as Free State ended the first half on a 15-2 run to take a 21-13 lead into intermission. Six points came from Wiebe, who knocked down her only two three-point attempts.
Senior Kennedy Kirkpatrick, who left Saturday’s game against Washburn Rural after bumping knees with another player, didn’t seem to be affected by the injury. Wearing a brace on her left knee, the 5-10 guard posted a team-high 13 points on 5-for-9 shooting, taking advantage of the match-up the defense gave her.
Against a smaller defender, Kirkpatrick posted inside, then put in short turn-arounds. Against bigger defenders, the senior played on the perimeter and drove to the rim.
Chelsea Casady added nine points for Free State.
The Firebirds (10-3) will play host to Leavenworth at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday.