Despite second-half surge, FSHS boys fall to Shawnee Mission South
Moments after Free State junior DK Middleton drilled a triple at the buzzer, he headed toward the bench and buried his head to the floor.
Middleton, and the rest of the Free State boys basketball team, used every ounce of energy to put together an incredible comeback bid. In the end, though, the Firebirds fell just short in an eventual 63-62 defeat at the hands of Shawnee Mission South Friday night at FSHS.
The Raiders (No. 8 in Class 6A) have now won seven games in a row, while the Firebirds (No. 9 in Class 6A) had their three-game win streak snapped.
“Give Shawnee Mission South credit, they came in and punched us in the mouth,” FSHS coach Sam Stroh said. “Our guys responded well, and I liked our effort. Every night in the Sunflower League is going to be tough, and obviously this one stings.”
But there was a moment that it didn’t appear a battle between top-10 teams would come down to the wire.
Shawnee Mission South (14-3, 9-2 Sunflower League) led by 15 points at the intermission after a strong first half on both ends of the floor. Free State (11-4, 5-4) struggled to get any momentum, having only one such instance of back-to-back unanswered buckets.
“It is going to help us in the long run, because we came out slow in the beginning of the game,” Middleton said.
That all changed in the second half, however, as FSHS was on a mission to start the third quarter.
Because of the double-digit deficit, Free State employed a full-court pressure defense. The Firebirds began to create turnovers, and started to get easy buckets in transition off mistakes by the Raiders.
Free State forced eight turnovers, scoring 22 points in the third period to pull within one possession. Senior Noah Butler and freshman Mozae Downing netted multiple baskets in the third quarter to help climb Free State back into the game.
“It helps when the crowd gets into it,” Middleton said. “The bench starts going crazy, and we start going crazy.”
Free State’s first and only lead came at the 5:35 mark in the final period, as Butler connected on a putback attempt to give the hosts a 51-50 advantage.
The Raiders answered with a 6-0 run over the next two minutes to reclaim control, and the Firebirds were not able to make enough plays down the stretch to pull it out.
Butler led the way with 24 points on 9-of-16 shooting from the field. Middleton scored 19 points, while Downing finished with 11 points. Andrew Piper, Ryan Stacey and Ethan Lincoln were the only other Free State players to score.
“I was just trying to see what we were made of,” Stroh said. “We haven’t been in that situation all year. The start of the game is definitely something that cost us, but hopefully we will learn from it.”
Free State travels to Lawrence at 7 p.m. Monday.
FREE STATE (62)
Mozae Downing 4-6 1-4 11, Noah Butler 9-16 5-7 23, DK Middleton 5-18 6-6 19, Ethan Lincoln 1-5 0-0 2, Turner Corcoran 0-0 0-0 0, Ryan Stacey 1-3 0-0 0, Andrew Piper 2-2 0-0 4. Totals: 22-50 12-17 62.
SM SOUTH (63)
Rio Bingley 3-7 3-6 10, Jake Potthoff 1-3 7-8 9, Sam Caldwell 4-5 0-0 11, Kenedy Rater 3-5 3-4 9, Skyler Rhoads 4-10 8-10 16, Evan Hickman 2-5 2-2 6, Erik Smith 1-2 0-1 2. Totals: 18-37 23-31 63.
Free State 14 8 22 18 — 62
SM South 17 20 11 15 — 63
3-point goals: SM South 4-9 (Bingley, Caldwell 3); FSHS 6-19 (Downing 2, Butler, Middleton 3). Turnovers: SM South 15; FSHS 13. Fouled out: Potthoff, SM South; Downing, FSHS.