Free State boys take down Shawnee Mission East in rematch
The Free State boys basketball team didn’t have to wait long to avenge its loss from the McPherson Invitational.
Exactly two weeks after suffering a 4-point loss to Shawnee Mission East in the semifinals of the midseason tournament, Free State got its much-needed revenge. The Firebirds were in control from the start en route to a 66-54 victory over the Lancers Friday night at FSHS.
“That’s all we talked about in practice,” senior Noah Butler said. “We knew we had to the little things like box out, and rebounds from the last time we played them. So if we just eliminated that, we knew we would take the game away.”
This time around, Free State (9-3, 5-3 Sunflower League) made sure to play with a ton of energy out of the gate.
Butler scored on the game’s first possession to gift the hosts an early advantage, and freshman Mozae Downing then netted a layup as well. Junior Turner Corcoran bullied his way to an interior bucket one minute later.
Shawnee Mission East (8-8, 4-4) took a 10-8 lead at the 2:53 mark in the opening period, but Free State answered with 8 unanswered points to reclaim the lead. Butler hit a pair of layups, while Downing and sophomore Andrew Piper each tallied a basket as well.
The Firebirds (No. 8 in Class 6A) never trailed for the rest of the night.
“I thought the start was the key,” FSHS coach Sam Stroh said. “I didn’t like our start against Olathe East on Tuesday. We need to work on closing the game and free throws, but I’m really proud of our effort.”
Free State pushed its lead out to double digits with a 10-0 run during a four-minute stretch in the second quarter. Junior DK Middleton penetrated the opposing defense with deliberate drives, while senior Ryan Stacey drilled a 3-pointer.
In fact, Stacey’s triple was the lone 3-pointer by the Firebirds, who emphasized attacking the rim all night against the Lancers.
“I think that is big for us, knowing what our strengths are,” Stroh said. “We just need to keep attacking, there is no reason to settle. We are a team where we are at our best when we are attacking the rim.”
After that, anytime Shawnee Mission East (No. 9 in Class 6A) started to claw its way back, Free State had an answer. And it was usually courtesy of either Butler or Middleton.
The two gifted guards made plays all night for Free State. Middleton threw down a dunk at the 1:43 mark in the second quarter. Butler routinely avoided double-teams with nifty moves to finish through traffic.
In the end, the dynamic duo combined for 40 of the team’s 66 points. Butler led the way with 21 points, while Middleton finished with 19. No other Free State player finished in double figures.
“With DK and I, the sky is the limit,” Butler said. “We are going to feed off each other, and get everyone to come along with us. We need five guys stepping on the court every time.”
Free State travels to Mill Valley at 7 p.m. Monday.
SM EAST (54)
Tony Friend 3-8 3-4 10; Andy Maddox 5-10 2-2 14; Nick Arensberg 4-11 1-4 10; Preston Reynolds 1-5 12-2 4; Noah Kurlbaum 5-8 0-0 12; Will Townsend 1-2 0-0 2; Jack Gilman 0-1 1-2 1. Totals: 19-45 9-14 54.
FREE STATE (66)
Mozae Downing 2-4 0-2 4; Noah Butler 8-13 5-12 21; DK Middleton 6-14 7-8 19; Ethan Lincoln 2-7 0-0 4; Turner Corcoran 4-4 0-0 8; Andrew Piper 1-3 1-2 3; Ryan Stacey 3-6 0-0 7. Totals: 26-51 13-24 66.
SM East 10 11 15 18 — 54
Free State 16 14 13 23 — 66
3-point goals: SM East 7-20 (Kurlbaum 2, Maddox 2, Friend, Arensberg, Townsend); Free State 1-8 (Stacey). Turnovers: SM East 7, Free State 11. Fouled out: Preston Reynolds, SME; Mozae Downing, FS.