Jalan Robinson lifts Firebirds past Olathe Northwest, 56-50

During halftime Friday, Free State senior center Jalan Robinson was honored at midcourt for earning all-state football honors. In the fourth quarter, he proved that he has plenty of talent as a basketball player, too.

Robinson scored eight straight points for the Firebirds in the final period against previously-unbeaten Olathe Northwest, allowing the home team to hold its lead for the final three quarters in a 56-50 victory at the Cage.

At one point, Robinson scored on three straight possessions. Using his size at 6-foot-5, 295 pounds, Robinson posted up in the paint and there was nothing that any Northwest defender could do to stop him from making layups.

When Robinson scored while being fouled, Olathe Northwest coach Mike Grove praised Robinson’s nearest defender for playing tight defense.

“The second half, my shot just started falling,” said Robinson, who finished with 12 points and 10 rebounds. “I was just thinking, ‘Just give me the ball.’ My teammates were looking for me, so it kept happening.”

Before the season, all of the Firebirds (5-1, 4-1 in Sunflower League) laid out their goals for the upcoming season. Free State coach Sam Stroh told Robinson that he should aim for the school’s single-season rebounding record, which Robinson believes he’s on pace to accomplish.

Playing in a lot of four-guard lineups, Robinson said football has prepared him for the role of protecting the paint and fighting for rebounds.

“Mostly being on the (offensive) line, you’re used to hitting someone every play,” Robinson said. “It’s kind of the same as in the post, you just have someone who is almost your size and is always battling with you.”

Never the most demonstrative player on the court, Robinson cracked a smile when he heard from some people he knew in the opposing student section — “They were trying to talk trash to me so I had to say something back.”

After Robinson traded points with the Ravens (7-1, 4-1) for a two-minute stretch, senior guard Zach McDermott made a layup and Garrett Luinstra made four free throws to secure the victory.

“Other players average more points and things like that. But we need Jalan,” Stroh said. “Defensively and offensively, he knows what we’re doing.”

The Firebirds pulled ahead during an 11-2 run in the first quarter and never trailed again. McDermott had eight straight points in the stretch, including back-to-back triples, after a 3-pointer from Noah Butler.

At the end of the first quarter, Luinstra (team-high 14 points) drilled a buzzer-beater that was launched just inside of half-court.

But the Firebirds never had much of an opportunity to play in transition as much as they would’ve liked. The Ravens slowed them down in parts of the second half with a box-and-one defense.

“We’re going to get teams’ best shots and the guys have to be prepared for that,” Stroh said. “I like the way we responded in the second half.”

Olathe Northwest (50)

Jackson Nicodemus 5-10 6-6 18, Mitch Midyett 2-3 0-0 5, Kyle Shiever 0-3 2-2 2, Luke Waters 4-11 6-6 17, Jack Parks 1-2 1-2 3, Mike Anderson 0-0 0-0 0, Aaron Reynolds 2-5 0-0 5, Luc Wellman 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 14-34 15-16 50.

Free State (56)

Garrett Luinstra 3-5 6-8 14, Simon McCaffrey 1-5 0-0 3, Noah Butler 4-6 0-3 10, Zach McDermott 5-7 0-0 12, Jalan Robinson 6-7 0-2 12, Bansi King 1-4 2-2 5, Reece White-Downing 0-2 0-0 0, Jared Hicks 0-0 0-0 0, Turner Corcoran 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 20-36 8-15 56.

Northwest 14 13 9 14 — 50

Free State 18 10 11 17 — 56

Three-point goals: Northwest 7-18 (Waters 3, Nicodemus 2, Midyett, Reynolds); Free State 8-19 (Luinstra 2, Butler 2, McDermott 2, McCaffrey, King). Fouled out: Midyett, Shiever. Turnovers: Northwest 10, Free State 13.