Free State’s Cole Moreano had just hit a three-pointer to put Free State ahead, but he knew it was someone else’s turn to get hot.
The junior forward screamed out “Iso” as he brought the ball up the court, then practically stuck the ball into teammate Khadre Lane’s stomach.
“He’s the best player we have,” Moreano said, “and if he doesn’t score, we won’t win. That’s just the way it is.”
Lane — scoreless at the time — didn’t hesitate, driving straight to the rim for a layup.
It was the first of seven straight points for the 6-foot-4 junior, who took over during a crucial stretch in Free State’s 44-37 victory over Shawnee Mission West on Tuesday night.
Lane put in three straight layups — adding a three-point play on the second one — as the Firebirds put together a 12-1 spurt in the fourth quarter to turn a two-point deficit into a 38-29 lead with 3:30 left.
“It’s up to (Cole) to call it, and he called it at the perfect time,” Lane said. “We took advantage the couple of times we did it, and it got us going.”
Lane admitted he was frustrated before that. Not only had he missed his only two shots, he also had let his man score on him a couple times.
“You have to get him going,” Moreano said. “And once he got going, the whole team responded. He starts it most of the time.”
Though the Free State starters clinched the win late, it was the reserves who kept the Firebirds in it early.
After West started the game on an 8-0 run, Free State coach Chuck Law called timeout with 5:50 left in the first quarter.
Before the game, Law had told his team to not shoot a three until it had gotten at least one post touch per possession. Twice in the opening minutes, the Firebirds jacked up threes without getting it inside first.
So out came the starting five, and in came Blake Winslow, Cody Scott, Weston Hack, Innocent Anavberokhai and Kyle McFarland.
Law only subbed once the rest of the half, putting back in one starter — Reshawn Caro — along with Chris Heller.
During the final 13:50 of the first half, Free State’s second five outscored SM West, 14-7, to close the Vikings’ lead to 15-14 at the break.
“They saved the game for us,” Law said of his reserves.
The best effort from the bench came from the junior guard Winslow, who locked on West sharpshooter Jay Temaat while Free State played an Amoeba-and-one defense.
After putting in two threes in the opening two minutes, Temaat missed his next six three-point tries and also was held scoreless in the second half.
The senior guard finished with 10 points on 4-for-13 shooting.
“I told him after the game that’s the best game he’s ever played in a Free State uniform,” Law said of Winslow. “He was fantastic.”
The senior McFarland also contributed four points and five rebounds in the first half, while Anavberokhai made two of his three shots for five points.
“All the credit in the world goes to those guys and their ability to be unselfish and work together and play defense that way,” Law said. “That’s as good of defense as I’ve seen at Free State in a long time.”
Lane, Caro and Moreano paced Free State with seven points apiece. Nine different players scored for the Firebirds, who picked up their first league win.
FSHS (5-7) will play at Shawnee Mission North at 7 p.m. on Friday.