Despite valiant effort, FSHS boys suffer overtime loss to Washburn Rural
WICHITA — The tires eventually ran out on Free State’s remarkable ride.
Free State went toe to toe with the top seed in the 6A state tournament, in a game that featured 12 lead changes. FSHS ultimately ran out of juice in overtime, though, in a 54-45 loss to Washburn Rural Wednesday night at Charles Koch Arena.
It was a somber ending to an otherwise stellar season, in which Free State found a way to play during the final week of the year despite replacing nine seniors from last year’s team that finished as a runner-up in Class 6A.
“I’m proud of our kids,” FSHS coach Sam Stroh said. “A lot of people didn’t pick us to be in this game and have a chance. We were a play away in regulation, and kind of just sputtered in overtime.”
During its season-ending defeat, the Firebirds (15-7) showed all the qualities of why they made it to the big dance in the first place. Free State was resilient on defense, while being methodical on offense, to trade punches with an eerily similar Washburn Rural (22-1) team throughout regulation.
But the fact that the No. 1 seed needed an overtime against the No. 8 seed is a testament to Free State’s poise down the stretch.
After trailing 31-27 early in the fourth quarter, FSHS senior Noah Butler trimmed the deficit back to 2 points with a pair of free throws. Juniors Alyus Wisdom and DK Middleton forced a jump ball to get the ball back just moments later.
Butler then netted a bucket on a putback to even the score, and gifted the Firebirds the advantage with a steal that led to two free throws just eight seconds later.
“People didn’t think we’d be here, but I think we showed them,” senior Ryan Stacey said. “It didn’t go our way in the end, but I thought we fought well and we did what we do.”
From there, the two teams traded blows over the final five-plus minutes. A free throw by freshman Mozae Downing with 1:39 remaining gave the Firebirds a 41-39 advantage, and a possible final four berth started to become more realistic.
Washburn Rural called a timeout before electing to use up the final minute of the clock to get a good shot. Senior Jordan White attacked the rim, drawing contact with 7.7 seconds remaining. He then netted a pair of free throws to force the free period.
White started overtime off with two more free throws, and the Junior Blues never trailed from there. Middleton fouled out with 1:23 left, and FSHS gave up a pair of offensive rebounds to Washburn Rural on missed attempts from the charity stripe to seal the deal.
“Things didn’t go our way,” Stacey said. “We had the lead at the end of the regulation, and it is just hard to get your mindset right to attack and get the lead back.”
Middleton led the way for the Firebirds in a losing effort, scoring 15 points on 5-of-12 shooting. Butler produced 13 points on a 4-for-6 effort. Downing notched 9 points, while Stacey and Wisdom were the only other FSHS players to score. White led Washburn Rural with 20 points.
“I was proud of our effort, we never hung our heads,” Stroh said. “We gave them all they had.”
FREE STATE (45)
Mozae Downing 3-4 2-5 9, Noah Butler 4-6 5-6 13, DK Middleton 5-12 4-8 15, Ryan Stacey 3-6 0-1 6, Alyus Wisdom 0-3 2-2 2, Turner Corcoran 0-0 0-0 0, Ethan Lincoln 0-1 0-0 0, Andrew Piper 0-1 0-0 0, Olin Yoder 0-0 0-0 0, Wyatt Durland 0-1 0-0 0, Dash Cleveland 0-0 0-0 0, Jaxson Webb 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 15-34 13-22 45.
WASHBURN RURAL (54)
Savian Edwards 3-8 4-4 11, Joseph Berry 5-8 2-2 12, Jordan White 4-12 12-14 20, Armahn Downing 3-8 0-0 7, Drew Bortz 1-1 0-0 2, Noah Krueger 0-0 0-0 0, Austin Van Aalst 0-1 2-3 2, Jackson Glynn 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 16-38 20-24 54.
Free State 11 7 8 15 OT 4 — 45
Washburn 9 19 19 12 OT 13 — 54
Three-point goals: FS 2-13 (Middleton, Rivers); WR 2-6 (Edwards, Downing). Turnovers: FS 9, WR 5. Fouled out: Middleton, Wisdom, FSHS.