‘He did it all’: White-Downing sparks Firebirds to rout over O-South

Watching a teammate’s missed shot bounce off of the rim Tuesday, Free State senior Reece White-Downing followed with a two-handed slam in the middle of the third quarter.

Back on defense, White-Downing was clapping his hands and smiling as he stood in a defensive stance. It was only the beginning of his high-flying act that enthused the crowd at the Cage during the Firebirds’ 66-33 victory over Olathe South.

On the next two possessions, White-Downing swished a 3-pointer and assisted on a jump shot. That was just the warmup to the main show: back-to-back alley-oops. His favorite was a no-look pass from senior Zach McDermott, which was the last part of a thrilling 16-4 run in a four-minute stretch where he scored nine points.

Free State coach Sam Stroh and White-Downing agreed that it was the best game of his high school career — “He did it all,” the coach said. He shot a perfect 8 of 8 (four dunks) to go along with 11 rebounds and three assists.

“You just have to remember next play,” said the 6-foot-4 White-Downing, who played last season at Topeka High. “Dunks are cool and all, but you have to get a stop on defense to get that fastbreak.”

White-Downing, who started dunking in games last year, told Stroh three weeks ago that he prefers coming off the bench to provide a spark. He did that in the second quarter by hitting a 3-pointer, pumping up his teammates by completing a dunk and scoring on a tip-in at the buzzer before halftime for an 18-point lead.

The second-ranked Firebirds (4-1, 3-1 in Sunflower League) proved how deadly they can be for opponents in transition. Each missed shot turned into an opportunity to race down the court and look for lobs.

“That’s what we can be. I told them I’m not going to slow them down,” Stroh said. “Our decision making can still get better but I thought it was an improvement from Friday.”

In the third quarter, Free State scored on 12 of its 15 possessions. Garrett Luinstra (eight points, five rebounds) connected on a pair of mid-range shots. McDermott heated up with seven points after battling foul trouble in the first half. Simon McCaffrey drained a 3-pointer.

Playing at home for the first time this season, the Firebirds fed off all the energy.

“That’s probably the fastest we’ve ever played,” White-Downing said. “It was real fun.”

Holding the Falcons (3-4, 1-3) to 24 percent shooting, Free State went on a 10-2 spurt throughout the middle of the second quarter. Senior forward Jalan Robinson had four points in the stretch, using his 6-5, 295-pound frame to control the paint. Robinson finished with 13 points and eight boards.

“We’re a complete team if everyone is playing well,” Stroh said.

Free State will play host to Olathe Northwest at 7 p.m. Friday.

Olathe South (33)

Brady Johnson 1-2 0-0 3, Ryan Koval 1-7 0-0 2, R.P. Morgan 2-8 2-2 6, Preston Schuck 1-6 3-3 5, Zach Toutges 2-6 4-8 8, Jake English 0-1 0-0 0, Alex Schmidt 1-5 0-0 3, John Boyer 1-2 0-0 0, Trey Dunn 0-1 2-2 2, Alex Wallace 1-3 0-0 2. Totals 10-41 11-15 33.

Free State (66)

Garrett Luinstra 4-11 0-0 8, Simon McCaffrey 2-4 0-0 6, Noah Butler 2-4 0-1 4, Zach McDermott 3-5 1-2 8, Jalan Robinson 4-5 5-7 13, Bansi King 2-8 2-3 7, Reece White-Downing 8-8 0-0 18, Jared Hicks 0-2 0-0 0, Turner Corcoran 1-1 0-0 2, Charlie Newsome 0-2 0-0 0, DK Middleton 0-0 0-0 0, Everett Waechter 0-0 0-0 0, Ethan Lincoln 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 26-52 8-13 66.

O-South 7 9 15 2 — 33

Free State 14 20 25 7 — 66

Three-point goals: O-South 2-10 (Johnson, Schmidt); Free State 6-20 (McCaffrey 2, White-Downing 2, McDermott, King). Fouled out: None. Turnovers: O-South 10, Free State 9.