Second-half surge leads FSHS girls to 51-37 win over Shawnee Mission East

photo by: Carter Gaskins

Free State juniors CK Kesten (13) and Haley Hippe (20) celebrate a 3-pointer made by teammate Evy Harrell (0) on Friday, February 1, 2019 at Free State High School.

It all started with a beautiful step-back jumper from Free State junior Caely Kesten.

With 2:40 left in the third quarter, Kesten threaded her way through the Shawnee Mission East defense before pulling up from the left elbow to drill a bucket with ease. Kesten’s basket was the start of a 19-0 run, which lasted a total of 6:38 of game clock between the third and fourth quarter. It helped Free State push its way to a 51-37 victory Friday night at FSHS.

The performance was a remarkable response by the Firebirds after suffering a 21-point home defeat to Olathe East just a few days ago.

“They bounced back, and came out focused to do what they needed to do,” FSHS coach Ted Juneau said. “We played with a purpose. We are a pretty good basketball team when we do that.”

Kesten evened the score at 26-26 with her nifty step back in the third quarter, but that was the merely the start of a dominant run. She netted another bucket on the next possession to give the Firebirds (6-8, 2-5 Sunflower League) a lead that they wouldn’t relinquish.

Moments later, Kesten was again attacking the Lancers off the dribble. She kicked the ball out to junior Joy Nunoo for a 3-pointer. Kesten then closed the third quarter out with a putback layup on a missed triple by senior Sam Lawrence.

The 9-0 stretch by FSHS gave the hosts a 33-26 lead entering the final period.

“The real key is taking good shots,” Juneau said. “Getting it to places where we are comfortable shooting the ball, and just being in rhythm. That to me is the key, and it is sharing the ball.”

Sophomore Evy Harrell, who ended up with 13 points, got in on the action in the fourth quarter to really blow the doors open.

After a free throw to start the final period, Harrell connected on three consecutive triples to close out the 19-0 run. Kesten was credited with two assists on those 3-pointers, in which Harrell splashed each one through the net.

The Lancers (9-6, 4-4) eventually found the bottom of the net at the 3:58 mark in the fourth quarter, but the damage had been done.

“Energy really boosts us all, and we get confident,” Harrell said. “It felt great to bounce back. I think we really pushed for it, and we really wanted it.”

It was evident out of the gate that Free State was going to need a total-team effort to secure its second league victory of the season.

All five starters were responsible for a basket during a back-and-forth first quarter. Kesten, who led FSHS with 16 points, buried the first two buckets. Lawrence then drilled a triple, and sophomore Shannon Clarke netted a layup in transition off her own steal.

Junior Haley Hippe converted on a pair of baseline jumpers to close out the first period. The starting unit was responsible for 48 of the team’s 51 points. Hippe and Clarke each finished with 8 points.

“Shawnee Mission East beat some hard teams that we lost to, so it was nice to take a win on them,” Kesten said. “We talked about being one of those better teams. We played together, and the game on Tuesday we didn’t really play together.”

Free State plays host to Lansing at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday.

SM EAST (37)

Reese Althouse 3-7 0-0 9, Kathleen Stanley 3-10 1-2 8, Jordan Yowell 1-12 6-9 8, Camryn Gossick 1-4 0-0 2, Sarah Bingham 1-5 1-2 4, Emma Eberhart 3-3 0-2 6. Totals: 12-41 8-15 37.

FREE STATE (51)

Evy Harrell 4-7 1-6 13, Shannon Clarke 3-6 2-2 8, Sam Lawrence 1-7 0-0 3, Caely Kesten 5-10 6-6 16, Haley Hippe 3-8 2-2 8, Lilliana Keathley 0-0 0-0 0, Joy Nunoo 1-3 0-0 3, Hope Wheeler-Halstead. 0-1 0-0 0. Totals: 17-42 11-16 51.

SM East 11 10 5 11 — 37

Free State 13 7 13 18 — 51

3-point goals: SM East 5-17 (Althouse 3, Stanley, Bingham); Free State 6-16 (Harrell 4, Lawrence, Nunoo). Turnovers: SME 13, FSHS 9. Fouled out: None.

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