Free State boys drop 55-51 decision to suffer first loss of season
photo by: Carter Gaskins
Free State boys basketball coach Sam Stroh had a simple message following the team’s first loss of the season.
Execution was the theme of his postgame speech, as FSHS struggled to do the little things down the stretch during a 55-51 defeat to Olathe North Friday night at home. The Firebirds showed plenty of potential in the first game after winter break, though it ultimately was not enough.
“We played hard, it was just free throws and layups,” Stroh said. “This is a team that has a lot of growth in front of them. I’m proud of their effort, but we need to make some free throws and make some layups.”
The sequence that best illustrated Free State’s woes in those two areas occurred in the final minute.
Junior DK Middleton missed a layup on a tough attempt in traffic. He was fouled, and went to the line for two freebies. After the first attempt, Olathe North was called for a technical. However, the Firebirds proceeded to miss three free throw attempts during that stretch.
Olathe North maintained a 6-point advantage, and Free State was unable to complete the comeback bid.
“We need some guys to step up,” Stroh said. “It is a challenge going forward now. It will be good for us to learn from this, watch film and break it down. But we need some more guys to step up.”
It was all Free State (3-1, No. 4 in 6A) in the early going, as the hosts jumped out to a 13-6 advantage in the opening period.
Freshman Mozae Downing was having his way with his defender, pulling out any dribble move to get by and set up his teammates. Senior Noah Butler got a couple early buckets on post-ups, and then continued to dominate when the Eagles attempted to double team him.
Middleton managed to steal a couple passes, and even got a transition slam on one takeaway. At one point, the Firebirds led by double digits before trailing by one at the intermission.
“We need to trust our offense,” Stroh said. “We got up 10, and then we were stuck at 18 for way too long. With a young team, that is going to happen.”
Butler and Tymer Jackson of Olathe North (3-1) then traded buckets in the third period. Butler scored 10 of his team-high 26 points in the third period, while Jackson notched 11 of his 29 points over that stretch.
“He’s supposed to show up, he’s one of the best players in the league,” Stroh said of Butler. “We need to figure out a way to get him the ball more. I was proud of his effort.”
Downing was given a technical in the third period, though, and the Eagles took advantage by creating some cushion with him on the bench. Free State made things interesting in the final period, but were unable to make enough plays down the stretch.
“Making shots is one thing, but it is execution,” Stroh said. “We will learn from it.”
Free State travels to Olathe South at 7 p.m. Friday.
Olathe North (55)
KT Raimey 4-12 3-6 11; Tymer Jackson 9-14 8-12 29; Elijah Williams 3-2 2-5; Mason Myers 0-0 1-2 1; Anthony Brown 0-4 1-2 1; Koi Jackson 1-4 0-0; Syl Union 0-2 1-2 1. Totals: 17-43 16-29 55
Free State (51)
Mozae Downing 2-6 1-4 5, Noah Butler 10-15 5-7 26; DK Middleton 3-10 1-4 7; Andrew Piper 1-2 2-3 4; Ethan Lincoln 1-7 5-7 7; Wyatt Durland 0-1 0-0 0; Ryan Stacey 1-1 0-0 2. Totals: 18-42 14-25 51.
Olathe North 6 14 18 17 — 55
Free State 13 6 14 18 — 51
3-point goals: Olathe North 5-17 (Jackson 3, Williams 2); Free State 1-11 (Butler). Turnovers: Olathe North 15, Free State 18. Fouled out: Raimey, Myers, Brown, ON.