Free State girls unable to complete comeback in 45-40 loss to Olathe South

Senior Sam Lawrence (4) waits for the ball to be taken up the court in a game against Olathe South Tuesday night.

Olathe — Free State girls basketball coach Ted Juneau wouldn’t let his team quit. The Firebirds eyed an upset over Olathe South, the No. 3 team in Class 6A, trailing by five with under a minute to go.

For the second game in a row, the Firebirds didn’t let a double-digit deficit to start the game dictate the outcome down the stretch. In the end, though, Free State fell by a 45-40 margin.

“They played their hearts out, they played hard,” Juneau said. “The game is still one possession every time. (We’ve) got to make stops and (we’ve) got to score. It’s really all about patience, then making up an 11-point deficit in a minute and a half, and they understood that.”

Olathe South played most of its offense through senior Dani Winslow, a Missouri State commit. Winslow had 10 points on six shots in the first quarter, adding a free throw, as well.

After focusing their defensive effort on limiting Winslow’s shots, the Firebirds only let her score a 3-pointer for the rest of the game.

“(Sophomore) Evy Harrell came in and got on her and did a good job,” Juneau said. “She did a good job of switching around other matchups and made it hard for them, and she did a good job of containing Winslow as time went.”

Winslow also got into a little bit of foul trouble. Juneau credited his defense for knowing what they needed to do to attack and get Winslow out of the game.

The Firebirds (2-5, 0-3 Sunflower League) were within a basket of tying the score after holding the Falcons (7-0, 4-0) scoreless through seven minutes of play in the fourth quarter. Thanks to a late-game press, the Falcons only got seven shots off as the Firebirds forced two turnovers on a team that doesn’t make too many mistakes.

Haley Hippe led FSHS with 12 points on 6-of-10 shooting. Shannon Clarke and Caely Kesten each scored 10 points. Kesten was perfect from the free throw line with four points in the third quarter.

Free State only used two substitutes off the bench, with Lilliana Keathley coming for extra defense during the crucial final stretch. Sam Lawrence, Kesten, Harrell, Clarke, Joy Nunoo and Hippe each played almost the entire game.

“We’ve got to grow our bench a little bit, right now our bench is pretty young,” Juneau said. “They’re getting better in practice, that’s what we got to build from now until the end of the season.”

Free State will travel to Olathe Northwest at 5:30 p.m. Friday.

Free State (40)

Haley Hippe 6-10 0-0 12, Shannon Clarke 3-9 4-6 10, Caley Kesten 3-6 4-4 10, Sam Lawrence 2-8 0-2 6, Evy Harrell 1-2 0-0 2, Joy Nunoo 0-0 0-0 0, Lilliana Keathley 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 15-35 8-12 40.

Olathe South (45)

Dani Winslow 5-11 1-2 13, Raegan Halliday 2-7 2-2 8, Reagan Ponzer 2-8 0-0 6, Caroline Harshbarger 3-8 0-0 6, Izzy Pierce 3-5 0-2 6, Sophie Reed 1-4 2-4 4, Kate Schmidt 0-1 2-2 2, Avery Halliday 0-1 0-1 0, Lydia Rhoades 0-1 0-1 0. Totals 16-46 7-14 45.

Free State 9 11 12 8 – 40

Olathe South 19 7 17 2 – 45

3-point field goals: Free State 2-11 (Lawrence 2), South 6-19 (Ponzewr 2, Reagan Halliday 2, Winslow 2). Fouled Out: None. Turnovers: Free State 11, South 4.

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