FREE STATE (74)
Keith Loneker 10 9-11 29, Reshawn Caro 1 0-0 2, Blake Winslow 3 4-6 10, Cole Moreano 1 0-0 2, Khadre Lane 5 2-3 12, Weston Hack 3 2-3 9, Innocent Anavberokhai 0 0-0 0, Justin Narcomey 1 0-0 2, Tristan Garber 2 4-4 8.
Totals 26 21-27 74.
Keaton Steadman 4 1-2 11, Josh Mark 1 0-0 2, Devin Beal 2 1-2 5, Jeremy Dunham 8 0-0 17, Nyjee Wright 2 2-2 7, James Conley 5 3-5 14, Trevor Hall 1 0-0 2, Brandon Banks 1 0-0 2, Kai Lemons 0 0-0 0.
Totals 24 7-11 60.
Free State 16 24 18 16 — 74
Derby 14 13 9 24 — 60
Three-point goals: Free State (Hack); Derby (Steadman 2, Wright, Conley, Dunham).
Derby Feeding the post and posting up. Spreading the floor and beating his man for easy buckets. Drawing fouls and making his free throws. Soaring high for a rebound and rifling an outlet pass well past half-court to facilitate a teammate’s tomahawk dunk.
About the only things senior Keith Loneker didn’t do Thursday night for Free State High in its 74-60 sub-state opening victory at Derby High were miss a shot from the field and blow out 18 birthday candles.
Making his 18th birthday a memorable one, Loneker demonstrated why basketball coaches everywhere spend so much energy screaming about making free throws and layups. He kept it simple, shot 10-for-10 from the field and 9-for-11 from the line for a career-high 29 points.
Built like the college-bound linebacker that he is, the Baker University signee used a point guard’s vision, a quarterback’s passing accuracy, a linebacker’s brute force and a relentless desire to keep the season alive to dominate the game from start to finish.
And he had plenty of help from Firebirds teammates. Khadre Lane (12 points), Blake Winslow (10 points), Weston Hack (nine points) and Tristan Garber (eight points) made passes from Loneker count and played efficient defense, as did Reshawn Caro.
Asked if he could remember his previous career-high scoring total, Loneker said, “I don’t know. Probably 10.”
What got into him?
“It was my birthday,” he said. “Maybe a little birthday luck was with me.”
His postgame plans after the 2 1/2-hour bus ride back to Lawrence did not include any celebrating.
“I’m ready to sleep now,” he said. “We’ve got a game on Saturday. I’ve got to get ready for that one.”
The Firebirds, the eastern-most school in the West Region of the 6A playoffs, must return to the Wichita area for a Saturday clash with a strong Wichita Southeast team playing on its home court for the 7 p.m. tipoff.
Loneker usually plays the role of facilitator for a team that does a good job of spreading around its scoring. In this one, multi-faceted scoring threat Cole Moreano watched most of the game with an ice pack on his shoulder after it twice popped out of joint.
Even before knowing Moreano would not be available, the Firebirds (12-9) had an idea attacking the basket was the way to go.
“We came in looking to stick to our stuff, and we knew if we did that because of the matchups we would be pretty successful,” Loneker said. “We came in looking to shoot layups, not as much shooting threes, because we knew we could get layups on them.”
“Matchups,” Loneker said. “That’s what we do. The coaches know who has the matchups to their advantage, and we look to expose them.”
Free State coach Chuck Law could not have been more pleased with his point guard.
“Great game,” he said. “Great game. Senior point guard. That’s kind of how you expect him to come out and play. He called his own number a couple of times because he knew he had a matchup he could take advantage of. Beautiful, beautiful game by Keith. Absolutely ecstatic for him.”
Loneker looked a little bit like a shorter Kevin Love when he skied for a defensive rebound and led Lane perfectly with a 60-foot long outlet pass that Lane took swiftly to the hoop, reached way back with one hand and threw it down.
“That’s my favorite play,” Loneker said. “I love seeing Khadre dunk. He gets up there. Impressive.”
On this night, nobody was as impressive as Loneker, fueled by that senior urgency to keep a season and a career from ending.