Noah Butler powers FSHS boys past Blue Springs

photo by: Darryl Woods/810 Varsity

Free State senior Noah Butler shoots a jumper during the team's 75-51 win in the 810 Varsity Tipoff Classic Saturday afternoon at Liberty High School.

LIBERTY, MO – With each of Noah Butler’s five dunks, DK Middleton would get just as excited as the Firebirds small traveling fan section. The two dominated the game, combining for 52 points to outscore Blue Springs by themselves in Free State’s 75-51 win in the 810 Varsity Tipoff Classic.

“For four quarters, (Noah) was a man on a mission,” Free State coach Sam Stroh said. “DK started off a little, but his start to the third quarter was huge in terms of setting the tone for the second half.”

Tied after a quarter, the Firebirds battled to take a 4-point halftime lead. With a matchup that had two of the most aggressive teams in Kansas and Missouri, Free State took advantage of each of the turnovers it would create and the fouls it drew.

Although he would have to leave early because of foul trouble, Stroh credited freshman point guard Mozane Downing-Rivers for moving the offense in his high school debut. Sophomore Andrew Piper also earned a start, drawing a first-half foul and scoring 5 points by the end of the game.

“I just thought I played bad (in the first half) and had to put up some jumpers. It was all Mozane looking for me at the 3-point line after I hit one,” Middleton said.

Butler, who is the Firebirds (No. 3 in Class 6A) lone returning starter, led in scoring at all levels. With three first half dunks on the day in his 29 point outing, Butler brought cheers to a small group of traveling fans with his electric finishes. He only missed one of his six free throws, which came in the second quarter.

“It just gives our team a lot of energy, I just love attacking the rim and getting everybody hyped,” Butler said. “I’m just going to step up and do everything it takes to win. That’s my whole goal, is to win, I don’t really care how that comes.”

Stroh said he was proud of how Butler didn’t try to force shots, and sees potential with the way he finished his shots on Saturday.

“If he’s able to do that on a night in, night out basis — we’ll be pretty special,” Stroh said.

At the start of the second half, Middleton hit three straight 3-pointers to pull the Firebirds out of reach. Free State’s 11-3 run forced a Blue Springs timeout, but the Wildcats were unable to recover.

The defense improved throughout the game as they forced Blue Springs to airball three times off wild shots of desperation.

Ryan Stacey contributed to that pressure, making steals and grabbing rebounds at forward. Sophomore Andrew Piper played solid defense at center for four quarters. Freshman Alyus Wisdom contained Blue Spring’s leading scorers in Prince Griffin and Stefan Black, holding the duo to a combined 27 points.

Still, Stroh says there’s room to improve before they can think about returning to the state tournament.

“We got a ways to go defensively, they gave us a lot of problems with their penetration, but this is just game one with a lot of new guys,” Stroh said. “This is a young, inexperienced team. We’re not going to use that as an excuse, but we’re going to need to get better.”

Free State (1-0) travels to Shawnee Mission West on Dec. 11.

Free State (75)

Noah Butler 11-15 5-6 29, DK Middleton 8-14 3-6 23, Ryan Stacey 2-5 0-0 5, Andrew Piper 2-4 1-2 5, Alyus Wisdom 2-2 0-0 4, Mozae Downing 1-2 1-1 3, Wyatt Durland 1-3 0-3 2, Ethan Lincoln 1-3 0-0 2, Jaxon Malone 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 28-48 11-17 75.

Blue Springs (51)

Prince Griffin 6-9 3-4 17, Stefan Black II 4-6 0-0 10, Kaden Spruell 3-8 0-0 7, Eli Wingert 2-7 2-2 6, Justin Smith 1-2 0-0 2, Dallas Allen 0-2 2-2 2, Justin Johnson 1-2 0-0 2, Kyle Bruce 1-2 0-0 2, Wyatt Borchers 0-3 1-2 1. Totals 18-42 8-10 51.

Free State 14 18 24 19 – 75

Blue Springs 14 14 13 10 – 51

3-point goals: Free State 6-14 (Middleton 3, Butler 2, Stacey); Blue Springs 5-16 (Black 2, Griffin 2, Spruell). Turnovers: Free State 5, Northwest 12.

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