Free State girls surrender early lead in loss to Blue Valley Southwest

photo by: Andrew Rosenthal

Free State junior guard CK Kesten (13) guards Southwest's Cassie Forcellini in the second round of the Ladyhawks Basketball Classic. Free State lost 47-41.

OLATHE — Free State’s girls basketball team couldn’t hold on to a five-point halftime lead, as Blue Valley Southwest surged back to claim a 47-41 win over FSHS Thursday night. It marked Free State’s second loss in as many games during the Ladyhawks Basketball Classic at Olathe East.

Caely Kesten took off in the first half with nearly all of the Firebirds’ points, with 15. Her first shot was blocked by a Southwest defender, and she missed her first three shots, but Kesten continued to remain confident in her shot and saw success.

“I try to push her to be more aggressive and to attack. She came out at the start and did that,” Free State coach Ted Juneau said. “She’s so gifted that sometimes she can take over the game, and she did that first half for sure.”

Kesten didn’t go to the bench until the third quarter and would finish the game leading all scorers with 19 points. Under six minutes to go in the half, Kesten fouled Southwest’s Amiah Simmons on a blocked shot and she went on to miss both of her free throws. Kesten also had a lot of rebounds.

As Free State (1-2) began to turn the ball over more, Southwest pulled ahead with a 14-point third quarter, which would turn into a 30-point half. The Timberwolves opened up a three-point lead, and answered the Firebirds’ defensive pressure with a perfect quarter in free throws, making 9-of-9.

Much of Southwest’s second half storm came from the team’s backcourt stepping outside the paint and making 3-pointers, something Juneau knew about heading into the night.

“Every time we answered, but didn’t finish,” Juneau said. “That’s the key sometimes. It’s not that they got 6 or 8 points in a row, it’s because, in between those points, we missed three layups and didn’t do what we needed to do on the offensive end.”

Late in the game, the shots finally began to fall for sophomore Shannon Clarke after a rough first half, as she added 8 points with two late-game free throws to keep the Firebirds within a few possessions. Maya Edwards found the ball in transition for a big steal, but couldn’t capitalize on two free throws and an and-one from earlier.

Off-the-bench Joy Nunoo and Mayela Edwards combined for 6 points. Edwards drew a pair of fouls and Nunoo just missed one 3-point shot. Free State only went to the line six times and shot 4-of-15 as a team from deep.

“I don’t want us settling for 3s, and I want us to be more aggressive attacking the basket,” Juneau said. “I think we’re going to be a good team, but we’re just struggling right now. They’re not sure if they should shoot it, if they shouldn’t shoot it, instead of just getting in the flow of playing.”

Both teams finished with sub-40 percent shooting nights, with Free State shooting 37 percent to Southwest’s 33 percent. Southwest only missed one set of free throws in the second half, finishing the night at 60 percent.

“Something we definitely lacked this game was team energy,” Kesten said. “The bench did a pretty good job in the first half, the people going onto the floor and subs going onto the floor need to bring that next level of energy and being aggressive.”

With the loss, Free State (1-2) will face Barstow at 3:30 p.m. Friday.

Free State (41)

CK Kesten 8-15 0-0 19, Shannon Clarke 4-11 2-5 10, Joy Nunoo 2-3 0-0 4, Sam Lawrence 1-8 0-0 3, Haley Hippe 1-3 1-2 3, Mayela Edwards 1-1 0-3 2, Evy Harrell 0-4 0-0 0. Totals 17-45 3-10 41.

Blue Valley Southwest (47)

Ashley Loeffelbein 3-5 6-6 13, Arielle Sargent 4-6 2-4 11, Amiah Simmons 3-7 2-7 8, Maddie Garretson 1-6 2-2 5, Avery Miller 1-1 0-0 3, Hannah Mauer 1-5 0-2 3, Cassie Forcellini 0-2 2-2 2, Abby Augustine 0-3 0-0 0. Totals 14-42 5-15 47.

Free State 9 13 6 13 – 41

BV Southwest 8 9 14 16 – 47

3-point field goals: Free State 4-15 (Kesten 3, Lawrence); Southwest 5-15 (Loeffelbein, Miller, Sargent, Garretson, Mauer). Turnovers: Free State 7, BV Southwest 13.


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