Free State boys knock off Gardner-Edgerton in final game of 2018

photo by: Chris Duderstadt

Free State senior Noah Butler (5) defends Gardner-Edgerton senior Luke Jennings (33) on the perimeter in the second half of the Firebirds' 58-40 win over the Trailblazers on Tuesday at FSHS. Butler scored a game-high 21 points.

The Free State boys basketball team didn’t have many answers for Gardner-Edgerton’s 2-3 zone defense on Tuesday at FSHS, but one hot hand was enough for the Firebirds to earn a 58-40 victory over the Trailblazers.

After missing his first two shots from downtown, Free State junior Ethan Lincoln caught fire by drilling three 3-pointers in the second quarter for all nine of his first half points. Going into the locker room didn’t cool down Lincoln, as he hit two more trifectas in the third quarter to finish with 15 points.

“I air-balled my first shot, so I was kind of frustrated after that,” Lincoln said. “But I mean a shooter’s mentality is to have a short-term memory and just get out there and shoot it.”

Lincoln hit five of his nine attempts from 3-point range while the rest of the Firebirds combined to go 0-for-9. The Firebirds (3-0, No. 4 in Class 6A) built a 26-22 halftime lead despite senior Noah Butler riding the pine for the final four-and-a-half minutes of the second quarter due to foul trouble.

Butler, who poured in a game-high 21 points, made up for lost time by scoring the first 10 points of the fourth quarter to push the Firebirds’ lead to 56-34.

“It feels pretty good. I was kind of frustrated when I got into foul trouble,” Butler said. “I was a little mad at myself because I knew I shouldn’t have put myself in that position, but I just had to keep my head up and keep going.”

photo by: Chris Duderstadt

Free State junior DK Middleton (10) drives in for a layup during the Firebirds’ 58-40 victory against Gardner-Edgerton on Tuesday at FSHS.

While Butler, Lincoln and junior DK Middleton (12 points) all scored in double figures, the effort on the defensive end is what the Firebirds were most proud of. Free State held Gardner-Edgerton (2-4) scoreless for the first six-and-a-half minutes of the fourth quarter.

“That’s kind of who we are right now. I don’t know if we’re a team that’s going to light up the scoreboard every night,” Free State coach Sam Stroh said. “In Game 1 we did a pretty good job of shooting the ball from the outside, but for us to be successful it’s going to be four quarters of defense and rebounding. I thought we did a better job in the second half.”

Stroh said that defense will need to be his team’s calling card again when the Firebirds return to action on at 7 p.m. on Jan. 4 to play host to Olathe North (4-1, No. 7 in 6A).

“We know what they’re coming with,” Stroh said. “They had 91 the other night (against Shawnee Mission North), so we better lock in defensively and be able to take care of the basketball or it will be a long night for us.”

The Firebirds will be tasked with trying to hold Eagles senior guard Tymer Jackson in check. Jackson netted a school-record 47 points on Friday against SM North, and was named the MVP of the Huhtamaki Hardwood Classic earlier this month.

Butler and the Firebirds are welcoming the challenge.

“That’s my guy, but he’s not doing that on us. That’s not going to happen,” Butler said. “At the end of the day, you just go out there and roll the ball out on the court and you’ve just got to be more competitive than the guy across from you and not let them score.”

FS 11 15 20 12 — 58

G-E 11 11 12 6 — 40

Free State (58)

Mozae Downing 0-4 0-0 0, Noah Butler 8-14 5-5 21, DK Middleton 4-13 4-5 12, Wyatt Durland 0-1 0-0 0, Ryan Stacey 0-2 0-0 0, Andrew Piper 2-5 0-0 4, Ethan Lincoln 5-9 0-0 15, Alyus Wisdom 0-0 0-0 0, Jaxson Webb 3-4 0-0 6, Tate Fanshier 0-0 0-0 0, Olin Yoder 0-0 0-0 0, Dash Cleveland 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 22-52 9-10 58.

Gardner-Edgerton (40)

Ethan Reynolds 1-3 5-6 7, Teven McKelvey 4-13 0-0 9, Brody Marshall 3-7 0-0 6, Matt Beyer 1-1 0-0 3, Kellen Kueser 0-2 0-0 0, Preston Rohr 0-4 0-0 0, Tyler Rollwagon 2-9 2-2 7, Laine Meyer 0-0 0-1 0, Jack McMillen 1-1 0-0 3, Luke Jennings 2-5 1-2 5. Totals: 14-45 8-11 40.

3-point goals: Free State 5-18 (Lincoln 5); Gardner-Edgerton 4-22 (Rollwagon 1, McMillen 1, McKelvey 1, Beyer 1). Turnovers: Free State 13, Gardner-Edgerton 8. Fouled out: Piper, FS.

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