FSHS girls unable to overcome 16-0 deficit in loss to Olathe North

photo by: Carter Gaskins

Free State's Samantha Lawrence (4) looks to pass the ball on the tight defense of Olathe North's Ashlyn Alloway on Friday, Jan. 4, 2019 at FSHS.

It would have been easy for the Free State girls basketball team to roll over after facing an early deficit in its first game of 2019.

An unbeaten Olathe North squad scored the first 16 points of the contest, but FSHS showed plenty of toughness by withstanding the early blow. The Firebirds clawed their way back before eventually trimming the deficit to 4 points late in the third period.

In the end, though, the Eagles ultimately pulled away to secure a 64-40 win Friday night at FSHS.

“(Olathe North) didn’t do anything we didn’t expect,” FSHS coach Ted Juneau said. “But (we) didn’t lose faith, and they worked hard. I was really proud of them.”

Free State (2-4) prepared for Olathe North’s full-court press throughout winter break by going against six or seven junior varsity players during scrimmage.

But nothing compared to seeing it in action, as the Eagles forced the Firebirds into several mistakes early on. Olathe North (5-0) got to the rim with ease in transition off turnovers. Even when FSHS broke the press, the team’s half-court offense was hurried.

As a result, the Eagles scored 16 unanswered points out of the gate. Junior Caely Kesten netted Free State’s first points at the 1:17 mark in the opening period with a pair of free throws. One possession later, junior Haley Hippe made the team’s first field goal via a midrange jumper on an assist from Kesten.

“We haven’t played anyone that has given us that much pressure,” senior Sam Lawrence said. “We came out and we were a little frazzled. We just got so far down, but we were able to regain our composure after that first quarter.”

Still, the Firebirds kept clawing back for the remainder of the night.

Midway through the second quarter, Kesten buried a triple to halve the deficit at an 18-9 margin. On the other end, sophomore Shannon Clarke obliterated an Olathe North layup attempt with an emphatic block.

Lawrence trimmed the deficit to single digits with a baseline 3-pointer on an assist by Clarke. The Firebirds even got within 6 points, though the Eagles answered with a pair of layups to take a 10-point advantage at the intermission.

“We got it to 10 at the half, and I told them one possession at the time,” Juneau said. “At the end, the game just got away from us. I was really proud of their effort.”

The same thing happened in the third period, however.

Clarke finished a strong left-handed drive with a layup to cut the deficit back to 6 points again. Two minutes later, Hippe registered a bucket in transition to trim the deficit to 4 points at the 2:29 mark, which was the smallest margin of the night.

Olathe North, though, pulled away with the things it did so well in the opening minutes. The Eagles got in transition, and knocked down easy buckets to make the final score more lopsided than the game felt.

“We do that a lot, we get down so much and then we claw our way back to 2 or 3,” Lawrence said. “We just can’t find a way to get it over, but we are really proud of our ability to fight.”

Free State travels to Olathe South at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Olathe North (64)

Sania Copeland 3-9 1-3 7; Rhaina Johnson 3-8 1-2 8; Lele Love 6-12 7-9 19; Le’Yanna McGinnis 10-21 2-6 22; Ashlyn Alloway 1-2 1-2 3; Hope Watts 1-2 0-0 2; Kenaja Green 1-7 0-0 3. Totals: 25-61 12-22

Free State (40)

Shannon Clarke 2-20 3-6 7, Sam Lawrence 2-7 0-0 6, Caely Kesten 4-13 7-8 16, Haley Hippe 5-12 1-2 11, Joy Nunoo 0-1 0-0 0, Evy Harrell 0-3 0-0 0, Hope Wheeler-Halstead 0-1 0-0 0. Totals: 13-57 11-16 40.

Olathe North 18 12 12 24 — 64

Free State 4 16 15 5 — 40

3-point field goals: Olathe North 2-9 (Green, Johnson); Free State 3-19 (Lawrence 2, Kesten). Turnovers: Olathe North 17, Free State 17. Fouled out: Love, ON; Kesten, FS.

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