Posts tagged with Free State

What caught my eye: Summer football practices

In about two weeks, Lawrence High and Free State football teams will open their seasons with their first day of practice. But both schools have competed at team camps, padded camps and scrimmages throughout the summer.

In June, the two schools spent two days at the University of Kansas team camp, along with about 15 other teams around the area. They also participated in Baker University's padded team camp, which they hosted on their own fields. Along with the two city schools, Shawnee Mission East, SM South, St. Thomas Aquinas and Leavenworth were at the Baker camp. Here's some of the things that caught my eye throughout the summer, starting with the Firebirds:

The quarterback competition is becoming more clear with Dallas Crittenden as the frontrunner to start in Week One. On the last day of the Baker team camp, FSHS coach Bob Lisher said the quarterback competition would continue into the fall practices, but the QBs are ranked. As I wrote earlier in the summer, Crittenden, who transferred from Topeka Hayden, took the majority of the snaps with the first-team offense. He has a strong arm and is becoming more comfortable as a dual-threat QB.

Free State junior Gage Foster took reps with the second-team offense and played some running back on the first team, so he will likely find a role on the offense whether it's at quarterback or running back. Sophomore Jordan Preston has worked with the JV offense, giving him regular reps.

The Firebirds should feature a strong defense, anchored by Jay Dineen at middle linebacker. If the end of last season was any indication, once they became more comfortable in their "50" defense, they thrived. Some players are in new roles, but they have plenty of star power returning in Kansas commit Dineen, Zack Sanders, Daniel Bryant, Zion Bowlin and Noah Kema.

In the backfield, Bowlin and Foster appear to be in line for the most carries. Of course, that could always change because both of them have big roles on defense and don't want to exhaust themselves. But they lined up the most with the first team offense. Jax Dineen, Craig Travis and Gabe Del Valle should have the opportunity to work their way into the offense, too.

The Firebirds will have a nice mix of returners on the offensive line. The Firebirds bring back Chase Houk, Sam Hambleton and Jay Dineen. All three of them started for the majority of last season and continuity is a big piece for any offensive line.


Now for thoughts on Lawrence High:

Dante' Jackson is making steady progress at quarterback. The 5-foot-7 junior looked better and better as the summer continued. He showed off his playmaking skills last season as a punt returner and slot receiver, but obviously the biggest adjustment is learning to throw and run an offense. Along with learning the position for the first time, he will be asked to run a no-huddle offense. But if the enthusiasm by his teammates is any clue, he should be more than ready by the first game on Sept. 2.

Speaking of Jackson, he showed a nice connection with his receivers, in particular Ekow Boye-Doe. Obviously summer scrimmages don't exactly translate to games, but Boye-Doe was on fire every time I saw him play. He made some nice catches over the middle and caught some passes through traffic. Harrison King and Jalen Dudley also made some nice plays at receiver.

Opposing coaches were raving about the potential of senior defensive lineman Jacob Unruh. With the Lions moving to platoons for the first time, Unruh can save all of his energy for the defensive side of the ball. He wrecked havoc on the limited contact scrimmages, shedding blockers and finding his way into the backfield. Along with Unruh, senior BJ Murry looked strong on the defensive line.

Watching younger players turn into seniors, it's interesting to see who turns into the vocal leaders of the team. On offense, one of the loudest voices was senior running back Trey Moore, who missed several games at the end of last year because of a fractured scapula in his left shoulder. Moore was a great backup running back for the past two seasons, and should be prime for a big season. On defense, senior Cade Burghart isn't as vocal as some of his teammates, but sets the tone by showing his younger teammates the right way to complete drills and everything else.


As always, feel free to comment, email me, or find me on Twitter @nightengalejr.

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Free State and Lawrence High boys and girls hoops sweep into sub-state finals

For the first time since 2007, Free State and Lawrence High are sending both of its boys and girls basketball teams into the sub-state championship games.

It's a credit to all of the teams for having such strong seasons — all four teams will finish the year with winning records.

Free State's boys basketball team (15-6) had the closest first-round game among city teams, winning 54-52 against Junction City on a putback by senior forward Chrision Wilburn at the buzzer.

For Free State's girls, the Firebirds cruised to a 50-17 victory over Wichita East by holding the Aces to just six points in the first half. Looking for their first trip to state since 2010, it's the seventh straight year the Firebirds (14-7) have advanced to the sub-state finals.

It's hard to tell, but Lawrence High's boys basketball team (19-2) had to fight for its 80-62 rout over KC Wyandotte, finally pulling away in the fourth quarter. Once the Lions were ranked No. 1 team in the state, they've had a target on their back and they know they'll get the best from every opponent they play.

Lawrence's girls basketball team (12-9) earned a 60-48 victory against Shawnee Mission East, using a 12-2 run in the fourth quarter to create some breathing room. Credit the Lions, who are playing without leading scorer E'lease Stafford (12 points per game), for finding a way to win without her.

Now for a look ahead to all of the sub-state championship games:

Free State girls basketball at Washburn Rural (16-5) at 7 p.m. Friday — The Firebirds handed the Junior Blues one of their five losses during the third-place game of the Firebird Winter Classic at the end of January, winning 53-36. The Junior Blues, who won a share of the Centennial League title, are led by Carly Bachelor (14.4 points per game, six vs. Free State in January) and Lauren Biggs (10.0 points per game, 10 vs. Free State). After facing Free State once, Washburn Rural has its eyes set on slowing down FSHS junior Madison Piper, who scored 23 points in the first meeting.

“They’ve got one of the best players around in Madison Piper,” Washburn Rural coach Kevin Bordewick told the Topeka Capital Journal. “She’s a player who can kind of do whatever she wants and score the ball, and she’s also a tough defender. So obviously she’s a big concern. But they’ve also got really nice, fast, good-shooting guards. They’ve got a lot of good role players. They’re just a tough team.”

Shawnee Mission West (11-10) at Lawrence High girls basketball at 7 p.m. Friday — During Sunflower League play, the Vikings won in overtime at LHS, 58-56, on Jan. 12. It was early in the season, and both teams are much improved for the rematch. SM West is led by star center Kenzie Loe, who led the league with 20 points per game and was second in the league with 9.5 rebounds, only trailing LHS freshman Chisom Ajekwu (9.6 rebounds per game). Loe was in foul trouble for the first meeting, but still found a way to score a game-high 27 points.

Free State boys basketball at Wichita Southeast (17-4) at 6 p.m. Saturday — In the final game in Southeast's historic gym (a new one opens next year), the Firebirds will try to slow down one of the best backcourts in the state. Southeast senior guard Jerrick Harding led the City League in scoring for the third straight year (26.5 points) and sophomore Israel Barnes, a transfer from Sunrise Christian prep, averages another 18.5 points. Wichita Heights coach Joe Auer told the Wichita Eagle that Harding “is every bit as terrific of a scorer as Conner Frankamp and Perry Ellis.” The last time the Firebirds traveled to Southeast, they lost by 15 points in the sub-state finals in 2014, though none of the current FSHS players were in that game.

Shawnee Mission Northwest (9-12) at Lawrence High boys basketball at 6 p.m. Saturday — The Cougars are playing some of their best basketball of the season, winning three of their past four games. LHS won the first meeting less than a month ago, 59-54, on Feb. 9. It was LHS senior point guard Justin Roberts' first game back from his shoulder injury. With a strong group of seniors, Dylan Dirks, Ferninand Hardy and Jalen LyDay, the Cougars have confidence they can pull off an upset. "I'm hungry. I want to get them," LyDay told the Shawnee Dispatch of playing Lawrence. "Last game was so close. I feel like if we play the way we did (Thursday), I think we can go get them."


In case you missed it, we're copying one of the popular features of KUsports.com, "Keegan's Ratings," where Sports Editor Tom Keegan ranks KU football and men's basketball players after every game he attends. These individual rankings are just one person's opinion, but it's a good way to look at how each person impacted each game.

Free State girls basketball

  1. Madison Piper, jr. — Piper scored eight of her game-high 17 points in the third quarter, taking advantage of Wichita East’s switch to a man-to-man defense. When she was double-teamed, she made the smart passes, dishing four assists. She also had two steals and two rebounds.

  2. Peyton Brown, sr. — In the first half, the Firebirds looked a little tight on offense — nerves that come from playing in the first playoff game against a team they haven’t played. But Brown just used the opportunity to assert herself on offense. She scored 10 points and added five rebounds, making strong cuts without the ball to the rim.

  3. Caiti Schlesener, sr. — Sometimes a streaky shooter, Schlesener found her rhythm on Wednesday. She shot 3-of-6 from deep and had no problem driving to the rim when Wichita East tried to guard the three-point line on her way to 15 points.

  4. Cameryn Thomas, soph. — Thomas only scored two points but made such a big impact in every other phase of the game. She crashed the glass and frustrated ball handlers with her full-court pressure, ending up with seven rebounds, four steals and a block. As point guard, she had three assists.

  5. Hannah Walter, sr. — When the Firebirds face a zone defense, Walter essentially becomes the team’s point guard. Get the ball to Walter, and let her make the smart play. She had four points, three assists and seven rebounds.

  6. Jaycie Bishop, jr. — Sporting a new hair color, Bishop used her strong defensive instincts to grab two steals. She missed two shots, including a potential buzzer-beater in the first quarter, but she had a nice assist in the second quarter, setting up Brown for a layup.

  7. Erin Cushing, soph. — Always bring a nice boost of energy to the court when she’s on the court. She missed all three of her shot attempts, but had two rebounds and assisted on a three-pointer by Schlesener.

  8. Sophia Jadlow, jr. — Grabbed two tough rebounds in the final minutes and made two free throws.

  9. Calli Bowen, jr. — Made a nice pass to Jadlow in the final minute, earning Jadlow a trip to the free throw line.

  10. Molly Murray, soph. — Murray was called for a foul while playing some tough defense in the post, making the mistake of putting both hands on the ball-handler.

  11. Sara Pavlyak, fr. — She didn’t record any stats with the running clock, but provided some nice stability while dribbling in the back court.

    — Next up: 7 p.m. Friday at Washburn Rural. Record: 14-7.

Lawrence High boys basketball

  1. Price Morgan, sr. — It’s hard to find a player who is on a better run in the past few weeks than Morgan. He’s just playing in a rhythm and so difficult to slow down. He scored 11 points in the first quarter, including seven straight at one point. He finished with 17 points, 10 rebounds, three assists and a steal.

  2. Justin Roberts, sr. — High school basketball’s version of Mariano Rivera, Roberts knows how to close games out for the Lions. He scored 12 of his game-high 25 points in the fourth quarter, drilling shots and making smart passes on drives into the paint. He’s also been strong at the free throw line, shooting 23-of-25 in the past three games.

  3. Jackson Mallory, jr. — The more you watch Mallory, the greater appreciation you have for his skills. He’s one of those players that just does a little of everything to help his team. He finished just shy of a double-double with nine points and nine rebounds, adding five assists.

  4. Fred Brou, sr. — Brou was ready to play in the first quarter and it showed right away. He scored seven of his 12 points in the first eight minutes, converting on two and-ones including a tip-slam while being fouled. He added five rebounds, two assists, two blocks and one more dunk in the fourth quarter.

  5. Anthony Harvey, sr. — Credit to Harvey, when his shot wasn’t dropping, to turn his attention to the defensive end. He played solid defense and grabbed eight rebounds. On offense, Harvey scored a buzzer-beating layup at the end of the first quarter, then opened the second quarter with a no-hesistation three-pointer from the wing.

  6. Kobe Buffalomeat, jr. — Wyandotte essentially played five guards on the court, and Buffalomeat used his size to take full advantage. He scored eight points, waiting for his teammates to deliver him passes in the paint. Buffalomeat added three rebounds and dished a nice assist to Morgan for a layup.

  7. Braden Solko, jr. — Solko provided a huge boost off of the bench, grabbing two rebounds and making two free throws. He showed off some nice handles when dribbling in transition and played his usual hard-nosed defense.

  8. Noah Butler, fr. — In the final minutes, Butler tried to bring the house down by driving baseline and dunking over his defender. Instead, he drew the foul and sunk both free throws. He added a blocked shot and played good defense on the perimeter. His only problem was he played a little sped up on offense when he came off of the bench in the second quarter.

  9. Austin Miller (jr.), Trey Quartlebaum (fr.), Brett Chapple (fr.), Jake Rajewski (soph.) — All of them entered in the final minutes when the Lions pushed their lead to 20 points. Miller deflected a shot on defense, but none of them attempted any shots.

    — Next up: 6 p.m. Saturday vs. SM Northwest. Record: 19-2.

It's always cool to see how Lawrence natives are performing at the collegiate level. I wrote up an alumni watch at the beginning of December, and will have another update in the next few weeks.

But one play from Free State and Bishop Seabury alum Khadre Lane, now a freshman at Campbell University, caught my eye on Twitter and I had to share below. No doubt, it's the same athleticism that made him such a force at the high school level on the basketball court and football field.

None by Campbell Athletics


As always, feel free to comment, email me, or find me on Twitter @nightengalejr.

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Free State basketball sweeps SM West heading into City Showdown

With only one regular season game remaining, it's the time of the year when every high school basketball team wants to be playing its best basketball of the season.

Free State High's boys basketball team showed off its offensive potential in a 77-66 victory over Shawnee Mission West on Tuesday.

The Firebirds were dominant in the first quarter, scoring on 13 of their first 16 possessions. Their only weakness is putting away teams when they jump to quick starts.

Heading into tonight's City Showdown, it'll be important for the Firebirds to learn their lessons from the first rivalry game. Free State had a lead at halftime before watching Lawrence High go on a big run in the second half.

"We’ve been playing well, we think," FSHS senior point guard Kristian Rawls said. "Coach (Sam) Stroh always talks about we need to be playing our best basketball right about now, which I think we are or close to (it). This will be good for us."

Free State's girls basketball team picked up a big win against Shawnee Mission West, 77-64 in double-overtime. It was a chance for some revenge after losing to the Vikings in the sub-state title game last season, but it was important to win out a close game after several close losses.

The Firebirds are fighting for the No. 2 seed in their sub-state bracket, and each win gives them a potential opportunity at earning an extra home game for the postseason.


In case you missed it, we're copying one of the popular features of KUsports.com, "Keegan's Ratings," where Sports Editor Tom Keegan ranks KU football and men's basketball players after every game he attends. These individual rankings are just one person's opinion, but it's a good way to look at how each person impacted each game.

Free State girls basketball

  1. Madison Piper, jr. — The best players step up in big games and that’s exactly what Piper did on Tuesday. On offense, Piper scored a game-high 27 points, making all 12 of her free throws. On top of that, Piper drew the toughest defensive assignment, guarding SM West center Kenzie Loe, the league’s leading scorer. She didn’t allow easy buckets in the paint and was dominant on the glass, grabbing a game-high 15 rebounds.

  2. Cameryn Thomas, soph. — Thomas turned her game up a notch in the final minutes, scoring 10 of her 14 points in the fourth quarter and two overtimes. She added four rebounds, two assists and two steals. It always seems like she gets stronger as the game goes on, frustrating opponents with her full-court pressure.

  3. Jaycie Bishop, jr. — When the Firebirds needed a big bucket, Bishop delivered from behind the arc. She scored 13 points, knocking down three triples. She added two assists and was at her best defensively, closing out on shooters and playing strong help-side defense.

  4. Caiti Schlesener, sr. — Schlesener does a good job of speeding up her opponents to an uncomfortable speed. Along with Thomas, she helped force four straight turnovers in the second overtime on the perimeter. Schlesener grabbed three steals, dished two assists and scored 10 points.

  5. Hannah Walter, sr. — On offense, the Firebirds went through Walter, who dished three assists, including the final go-ahead score on a three by Bishop. She added four rebounds and a steal, making her usual hustle plays.

  6. Peyton Brown, sr. — Before fouling out in the first overtime, Brown did a good job of finding open space in the paint. She scored 11 points, going 7-of-12 from the free throw line. She added five rebounds, grabbing tough rebounds in traffic.

  7. Jaelyn Two Hearts, soph. — Two Hearts couldn’t find her offensive rhythm, missing two three-point attempts. She added a rebound.

    — Next up: 5:30 p.m. Friday vs. Lawrence High. Record: 13-6.

Free State boys basketball

  1. Hunter Gudde, sr. — On one drive in the first quarter, it looked like Gudde lost control of the ball on his way to attempting a layup and the ball still found a way through the hoop. It was just one of those days. Gudde scored a team-high 19 points on a perfect 8-of-8 shooting. He added four rebounds and four assists.

  2. Darian Lewis, sr. — In his first varsity start, Lewis was strong with the ball and knew to be in the right place at the right time. He scored 14 points and grabbed a team-high seven rebounds, scoring a few putbacks. On defense, he drew a couple of charges.

  3. Kristian Rawls, sr. — Rawls scored 11 points on 5-of-5 shooting, including his first in-game dunk during the third quarter. Yet, he might have been even better defensively. He grabbed three steals, two rebounds and blocked two shots.

  4. Chrision Wilburn, sr. — After missing his first two shots, Wilburn settled in and was strong in the paint. He worked around defenders for layups and had his first two in-game dunks of the season. Along with scoring 13 points, Wilburn had four rebounds and an assist.

  5. Drew Tochtrop, sr. — Playing with his usual energy, Tochtrop had six points, two rebounds and a steal. He had a nice sequence in the fourth quarter, assisting on a bucket by Gudde, then scoring three straight points.

  6. Jay Dineen, jr. — Throughout the season, Dineen has been playing with more and more confidence. He finished with six points, six rebounds and two assists.

  7. Jacob Pavlyak, jr. — Pavlyak scored four points with both buckets within a two-minute stretch in the second quarter. He grabbed one steal on defense.

  8. Sloan Thomsen, jr. — Scored on a missed free throw in the second quarter, grabbing the rebound and finishing through traffic. He added three rebounds.

  9. Garrett Lunistra, soph. — Spelling Rawls for a few minutes at point guard, Lunistra made two free throws in the second quarter. He missed a couple of shots from the field and grabbed one rebound.

  10. Cameron Clark, jr. — Playing a little sped up, Clark rushed through a couple of offensive moves in the post for a pair of turnovers. He added three rebounds, using his height in the paint to his advantage.

  11. Shannon Cordes, jr. — Cordes kept the offense flowing when he was on the court, but he didn’t attempt any shots.

  12. Simon McCaffrey (soph.), Jalan Robinson (soph.), Reece White-Downing (soph.) — All of them entered in the final minute so the seniors could exit to a big ovation. White-Downing grabbed a rebound.

    — Next up: 7 p.m. Friday vs #1 Lawrence High. Record: 14-5.

Sunflower League boys basketball standings

Team … League … Overall

SM North … 10-0 … 15-4

Lawrence … 9-1 … 17-2

Olathe East … 7-3 … 15-4

Olathe South … 7-3 … 13-6

Free State … 7-3 … 14-5

Olathe North … 4-6 … 12-7

SM South … 4-6 … 9-10

SM East … 4-6 … 7-12

SM Northwest … 3-7 … 8-11

SM West … 3-7 … 6-13

Olathe Northwest … 2-8 … 7-12

Leavenworth … 0-10 … 2-17

Sunflower League girls basketball standings

Team … League … Overall

Olathe South … 9-1 … 17-1

Leavenworth … 9-1 … 15-4

SM Northwest … 8-2 … 17-2

Olathe East … 8-2 … 15-4

Free State … 6-4 … 13-6

SM West … 6-4 … 10-9

SM North … 5-5 … 8-11

Lawrence … 4-6 … 10-9

SM South … 2-8 … 5-14

SM East … 2-8 … 4-15

Olathe Northwest … 1-9 … 7-12

Olathe North … 0-10 … 2-17


As always, feel free to comment, email me, or find me on Twitter @nightengalejr.

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Free State hoops swept by Olathe East; Gudde and Piper lead player rankings

With sub-state approaching closer each day, Free State High girls basketball players have a different look in their eyes. Each game means a little more. Each possession is more important.

That's what makes the close losses so much more frustrating. The Firebirds suffered a 58-51 loss against Olathe East on Friday.

The Firebirds certainly didn't play poorly in the loss. They could've played a little bit better on defense. They gave up a few too many rebounds. But when an opponent drills six threes in one quarter, it's tough to keep up offensively.

"It’s definitely frustrating because I know we really wanted it," FSHS junior Madison Piper said. "It came down to our execution on defense and I don’t think our defense was as good as we wanted it to be that game."

Of Free State's six losses this season, five are against teams ranked in the top five in the state. The lone exception was a one-point loss to Lawrence High in the City Showdown in December.

Free State's boys basketball team faced one of the most talented teams in the state playing at its best in a 68-61 loss at Olathe East.

In the first half, the Firebirds were efficient on offense and played solid defense. Yet, they were only up three points at halftime and were doomed by an 11-0 run in the third quarter by O-East.

The Firebirds bounced back with a victory against William Chrisman (Mo.) on Saturday, and they weren't discouraged by their road loss. Sitting a game back in the sub-state standings from the No. 2 seed, the Firebirds will likely have to win a road game against a top team to earn a spot at state.

"We need to keep cleaning things up on the road with three or four minutes to go," FSHS coach Sam Stroh said. "(Lawrence High), McPherson, here, Olathe South in overtime, we’re right there. And we might be on the road in sub-state. So this is a good learning experience for us. Come sub-state, hopefully this will pay off."


In case you missed it, we're copying one of the popular features of KUsports.com, "Keegan's Ratings," where Sports Editor Tom Keegan ranks KU football and men's basketball players after every game he attends. These individual rankings are just one person's opinion, but it's a good way to look at how each person impacted each game.

Free State girls basketball

  1. Madison Piper, jr. — Piper received a lot of attention from defenders, and still found a way to score a team-high 18 points. She did most of her work inside of the three-point line, knocking down jumpers and getting into the paint for layups. She had good looks for a couple of potential game-tying threes in the final minute, but just couldn’t get them to fall.

  2. Jaelyn Two Hearts, soph. — Down by six points in the fourth quarter, Two Hearts hit threes on back-to-back possessions to help the Firebirds back into the game. She scored 11 points and played solid defense, deflecting a couple of passes.

  3. Cameryn Thomas, soph. — The Firebirds needed some help on the glass, and Thomas grabbed some key rebounds. With a minute left in the fourth quarter, Thomas turned the ball over, but made up for it by forcing a 10-second violation in the backcourt. She added nine points, including four at the beginning of the third quarter.

  4. Caiti Schlesener, sr. — In the middle of the second quarter, Schlesener grabbed a steal and made a layup while being fouled. She added a layup at the beginning of the second quarter, scoring four points, and assisted on a three by Two Hearts.

  5. Peyton Brown, sr. — Brown scored on an inbounds play with two minutes left, cutting her team’s deficit to one point. Facing some tall post players, Brown played strong defense in the paint, limiting layups.

  6. Hannah Walter, sr. — Walter scored two points, but was limited in the fourth quarter because of foul trouble. When she was on the court, she played strong defense and closed out strong on shooters. She fouled out with about 2 1/2 minutes remaining.

  7. Jaycie Bishop, jr. — Drilled a three-pointer at the beginning of the second quarter, helping her team score on four straight possessions. She added strong defense.

    — Next up: 5:30 p.m. Tuesday vs. SM West. Record: 12-6.

Free State boys basketball

  1. Hunter Gudde, sr. — Gudde has a sixth sense when he knows he needs to step up for his team on offense. In the third quarter, he scored six of his team’s nine points. He finished with a game-high 22 points, adding three rebounds and two assists.

  2. Jay Dineen, jr. — Earning a spot in the starting lineup, Dineen used his strength to his advantage for one of his best games of the season. He finished with eight points, eight rebounds and two assists. Defensively, he was active and grabbed a steal.

  3. Kristian Rawls, sr. — Rawls put his teammates in good positions and played strong defense outside of a few touch fouls. He scored six points and dished two assists, dropping off passes on drives to the rim.

  4. Shannon Cordes, jr. — In the fourth quarter, Cordes provided a nice offensive boost, scoring six of his seven points in the final eight minutes. He’s becoming more dangerous with his drives to the rim, earning trips to the free throw line.

  5. Jacob Pavlyak, jr. — Pavlyak didn’t fill up the stat sheet, grabbing two rebounds and going scoreless. But he did a lot of things that don’t show up from stats. He was everywhere diving for loose balls and helping the Firebirds pick up extra offensive possessions. He also deflected a few passes, causing turnovers.

  6. Sloan Thomsen, jr. — Off of the bench, Thomsen was efficient. He made some strong plays in the post, grabbing three rebounds and scoring seven points. In the second quarter, he scored five points — a putback and a three-pointer.

  7. Cameron Clark, jr. — Clark was dominant in the first quarter, scoring seven points, including a dunk in transition and an and-one layup. But he never regained his rhythm after the first quarter, running into foul trouble and finishing with two rebounds and an assist.

  8. Chrision Wilburn, sr. — Off of the bench, Wilburn brought energy and was sharp on the court. Facing a pair of forwards taller than 6-foot-6, he scored two points and grabbed three rebounds.

  9. Darian Lewis, sr. — Lewis made a layup at the end of the first half, catching a pass from Pavlyak.

  10. Simon McCaffrey, soph. — Filled in for a few minutes during the second quarter at point guard and played active defense on the perimeter.

  11. Drew Tochtrop, sr. — Entered in the fourth quarter but did not record any stats.

    — Next up: 7 p.m. Tuesday vs. SM West. Record: 13-5.

Sunflower League boys basketball standings

Team … League … Overall

SM North … 9-0 … 14-4

Lawrence … 8-1 … 16-2

Olathe South … 7-2 … 13-5

Olathe East … 6-3 … 14-4

Free State … 6-3 … 13-5

Olathe North …4-5 … 12-6

SM West … 3-6 … 6-12

SM South … 3-6 … 8-10

SM East … 4-5 … 7-11

Olathe Northwest … 2-7 … 7-11

SM Northwest … 2-7 … 7-11

Leavenworth … 0-9 … 2-16

Sunflower League girls basketball standings

Team … League … Overall

Olathe South … 8-1 … 16-1

Olathe East … 8-1 … 15-3

Leavenworth … 8-1 … 14-4

SM Northwest … 7-2 … 16-2

SM West … 6-3 … 10-8

Free State … 5-4 … 12-6

SM North … 5-4 … 8-10

Lawrence … 3-6 … 9-9

SM East … 2-7 … 4-14

SM South … 1-8 … 4-14

Olathe Northwest … 1-8 … 7-11

Olathe North … 0-9 … 2-16


As always, feel free to comment, email me, or find me on Twitter @nightengalejr.

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Lawrence High boys hoops wins Topeka; Free State boys bounce back against Lansing

It's the Year of the Comeback in Lawrence this season.

Down 14 points with 4:05 remaining in the Topeka Invitational Tournament championship, Lawrence High's boys basketball team fought back to force overtime and eventually rip out a 62-61 victory against Highland Park.

On one hand, the improbable comeback was impressive considering they were playing without leading scorer and senior point guard Justin Roberts. But it was also a matchup between the Lions and Highland Park, which always produces dramatic games. The Lions beat Highland Park in December, picking up a 72-64 victory in OT in the Blue Valley Shootout.

In the past four seasons, the Lions own a 4-2 record against Highland Park, with three games separated by four points or less. That also includes a one-point win by LHS in the T.I.T. title game in 2013.

The Lions (12-1, ranked No. 2 in Class 6A) weren't at their best during the tournament, especially on offense without Roberts (dislocated shoulder Friday), but it's a credit to them that they were able to pull out three wins in three days.

Free State's boys basketball team, which already picked up a win when down by 18 in the fourth quarter, took second place at the McPherson Invitational over the weekend. Back home, the Firebirds won 66-53 against Lansing on Tuesday.

The Firebirds, who were unranked for too long, won't be underestimated by any teams for the rest of the season. They are ranked No. 6 in 6A, and they have so much depth that they usually can find somebody to step up for a big night.

Additionally, Free State's only two losses were in some of the toughest atmospheres for road teams: at Lawrence High and at McPherson (12-1, ranked No. 1 in 4A-I). The Firebirds (10-2) will have some tough games when their league schedule resumes, but they've proven they're one of the top teams in the state.

None by Journal-World HS


In case you missed it, we're copying one of the popular features of KUsports.com, "Keegan's Ratings," where Sports Editor Tom Keegan ranks KU football and men's basketball players after every game he attends. These individual rankings are just one person's opinion, but it's a good way to look at how each person impacted each game.

Lawrence High boys basketball

  1. Price Morgan, sr. — The Lions needed somebody to step up with Roberts out, and Morgan filled that role. He scored a game-high 20 points, scoring in a variety of ways through layups, putbacks, mid-range jumpers and drives to the rim. Even after taking a big hit when jumping in the air for a pass and colliding with an opponent, Morgan was huge in the paint. He also had six rebounds, three assists and a block.

  2. Fred Brou, sr. — Brou saved some of his best basketball for the end of the tournament. He scored eight points in the fourth quarter and, of course, scored the game-winning on a tip-in at the buzzer in OT. Brou finished with 16 points, eight rebounds, two assists and a block.

  3. Noah Butler, fr. — As the season progresses, Butler continues to keep improving on the court. He made some huge plays in the final minutes of regulation, knocking down two threes and blocking a shot off of the backboard. He added a banked in layup in OT. Butler scored 13 points with three rebounds and two blocks.

  4. Jackson Mallory, jr. — Mallory was sick throughout the weekend, but he estimated he was about 90 percent for the championship Saturday. Taking over the primary ball-handling duties for Roberts, he scored eight points with five rebounds and two assists. He’s one of those players that just makes all of his teammates better.

  5. Anthony Harvey, sr. — After scoring 18 points in the semifinals, Harvey couldn’t get his shot to drop Saturday. He scored three points — all at the free throw line. But he played solid defense and attacked the glass for five rebounds.

  6. Kobe Buffalomeat, jr. — Buffalomeat does such a good job screening for his teammates, helping set up the offense. He scored two points, and nearly showed off his range with a three-point attempt. He added three rebounds and a block.

  7. Braden Solko, jr. — Solko missed a three, but provided his usual hard-nosed defense. He grabbed one rebound and had one assist.

  8. Austin Miller, jr. — Miller didn’t attempt any shots but played good defense on the perimeter without fouling.

    — Next up: 7 p.m. Feb. 5 vs. SM South. Record: 12-1.

Free State boys basketball

  1. Hunter Gudde, sr. — Gudde found his rhythm in the second quarter with six points in a two-minute stretch. He jumped passing lanes for three steals and was strong to the rim in transition. He scored a game-high 17 points with two rebounds, going 9-of-12 from the free throw line.

  2. Kristian Rawls, sr. — When Rawls goes into attack mode, he’s tough to stop. He scored eight points with a few drives through traffic. He added four rebounds and a steal, playing solid defense on the perimeter.

  3. Cameron Clark, jr. — Clark nearly finished with a double-double, recording eight points and eight rebounds off of the bench. He played well in the post and did a good job setting up screens for his teammates on offense.

  4. Drew Tochtrop, sr. — The Firebirds needed a boost on offense in the first quarter and Tochtrop stepped up. First it was a nice drive to the rim, banking in a bucket. Then he added a three in transition. An all-tournament selection at McPherson last weekend, Tochtrop had seven points and a steal before exiting in the third quarter because of a knee injury.

  5. Jacob Pavlyak, jr. — Matched up against Lansing’s top scorer, Sam Lorenzen, Pavlyak did his best to make his shots difficult in the second half. Lorenzen still hit a couple of threes, but Pavlyak prevented any further damage. He scored six points and had three rebounds.

  6. Shannon Cordes, jr. — In the second quarter, Cordes caught fire and helped the Firebirds to an 11-point lead. He scored eight straight points, knocking down a pair of threes and two free throws on a nice drive to the rim. He added two steals.

  7. Sloan Thomsen, jr. — Thomsen only took one shot, missing a three, but he was engaged on the defensive end and grabbed four rebounds.

  8. Chrision Wilburn, sr. — Wilburn battled some foul trouble in the first half, but he scored five points, grabbed two steals and had one rebound.

  9. Darian Lewis, sr. — Always in the right spot to make plays, Lewis grabbed three rebounds and assisted on a layup in the fourth quarter. He scored on a putback in the first quarter.

  10. Jay Dineen, jr. — Dineen brought his usual energy. He scored on a layup-and-the-foul bucket in the third quarter, receiving a nice hi-lo pass, and he grabbed three rebounds.

  11. Simon McCaffrey, soph. — He looks like he’s becoming more confident on the court. He missed on his only shot attempt but assisted on a three to Cordes.

  12. Reece White-Downing, soph. — Entered in the fourth quarter and knocked down three of his four free throws in the final minute.

    — Next up: 7 p.m. Feb. 5 vs. SM Northwest. Record: 10-2.

As always, feel free to comment, email me, or find me on Twitter @nightengalejr.

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Lawrence High splits against Olathe East; Free State boys win in triple OT

If there was ever a game that brought a playoff atmosphere to the regular season, look no further than Lawrence High on Friday against Olathe East.

The Lions were eliminated by the Hawks in 2014 during the sub-state title game, and both schools were in the Class 6A state semifinals last season. With a fired up crowd, the Lions picked up one of their biggest wins of the season with a 69-61 victory.

The Hawks were missing two key starters, but it was a big momentum boost for the Lions heading into the Topeka Invitational Tournament this week.

For Lawrence High's girls basketball team, I made the point last year — and it applies again — no team in the state has a tougher schedule in the first two weeks back from winter break. In the team's first four Sunflower League games, LHS opponents have a combined 15-1 record in the league and 30-6 overall.

The Lions were encouraged by their 44-43 loss to Olathe East, and they hope it'll turn into momentum for the rest of the season. It was a big game for sophomore Talima Harjo, who scored nine points in the fourth quarter, leading the charge for a comeback.

The Lions need reliable scoring options outside of junior Olivia Lemus and sophomore E'lease Stafford, so Harjo's play would make the Lions a lot more dangerous.

On the other side of town, it's hard to win games in more dramatic fashion than Free State's boys basketball team over the weekend. On Friday, the Firebirds fought back from an 18-point deficit in the fourth quarter for a 69-68 win at Olathe Northwest. The next afternoon, they picked up a 83-81 win in triple overtime against Lee's Summit North.

When things are going well, sometimes the ball just rolls your way. The Firebirds benefitted form some missed free throws in their big comeback and a missed layup in OT against Lee's Summit North.

The only team I didn't see over the weekend was Free State's girls basketball team, which picked up a 65-44 victory over Olathe Northwest, a nice bounce back after a loss against Leavenworth.


In case you missed it, we're copying one of the popular features of KUsports.com, "Keegan's Ratings," where Sports Editor Tom Keegan ranks KU football and men's basketball players after every game he attends. These individual rankings are just one person's opinion, but it's a good way to look at how each person impacted each game.

Lawrence High girls basketball

  1. Olivia Lemus, jr. — It seems like whenever the Lions need a big bucket, Lemus finds a way to deliver. She scored a team-high 12 points, knocking down two threes in the third quarter. She was active on the glass and defensively, grabbing five rebounds and winning the races to loose balls.

  2. Talima Harjo, soph. — In the fourth quarter, it turned into the Harjo show. She scored eight straight points for the Lions, tying the game with 1:39 left. She hit a baseline jumper and threes from opposite sides of the arc. After her offensive explosion, she forced a turnover on defense with a deflection. She had 11 points and a steal.

  3. Skylar Drum, jr. — It’s not easy to score on Drum. She uses her athleticism to play defense in the post and on the perimeter. She held O-East’s Caroline Hoppock (15 points) scoreless in the second half. Drum added six points and five rebounds.

  4. E’lease Stafford, soph. — Stafford didn’t have her shot dropping, but she showed assertiveness by calling for the ball on offense. She had seven points, five rebounds, two assists and two blocks.

  5. Chisom Ajekwu, fr. — Ajekwu didn’t have her best offensive night, going 0-for-4 from the field, but defensively she was strong in the post. The 6-3 freshman had four rebounds and three blocks.

  6. Hannah Stewart, fr. — Stewart is starting to play with more confidence. She tied the game in the fourth quarter with a teardrop floater down the middle of the lane. The freshman had five points, one rebound, one steal and one assist.

  7. Leslie Ostronic, fr. — Ostronic missed her only shot attempt, but she played solid defense and was reliable with the ball. She had two rebounds and a steal.

  8. Alexis Boyd, sr. — Boyd went 1-for-4 from the floor, scoring in the second quarter on a turnaround jumper.

  9. Emma Bentzinger, sr. — Bentzinger played good defense on the court, actively denying passes, but she missed her only shot attempt.

    — Next up: Jan. 28 at Topeka Tournament. Record: 4-6.

Lawrence High boys basketball

  1. Justin Roberts, sr. — Roberts has been known for his clutch plays over the years and Friday was just another chapter. He gave the Lions a lead with under a minute left when he was fouled on a three-point attempt, then stole an inbounds pass which turned into a layup for Price Morgan. Roberts had a team-high 24 points with three rebounds, four assists and three steals.

  2. Price Morgan, sr. — The recent Air Force football commit showed off his potential on the basketball court. He scored 17 points with four rebounds and two assists. He was huge in the third quarter when the Lions couldn’t find a rhythm on offense, getting to the free throw line and scoring on a layup-and-the-foul bucket.

  3. Fred Brou, sr. — Brou had one of his toughest defensive assignments of the year, trying to slow down Olathe East senior Josiah Talbert. He avoided giving Talbert any layups, but couldn’t prevent his hot shooting. Offensively, Brou had six points and five rebounds, including two dunks. He also had a great assist to Morgan in the final minute, giving the Lions a crucial two-possession lead.

  4. Anthony Harvey, sr. — Harvey stepped up with some big shots, scoring six points in the fourth quarter. Early in the final period, he was fouled on a three-point attempt, giving the Lions a lead, then raced past defenders for a layup less than a minute later. He finished with 11 points.

  5. Jackson Mallory, jr. — He dealt with a little bit of foul trouble and hit shots weren’t falling, and Mallory still found a way to make a big impact. He had five points, six rebounds, three assists and a steal. His best stretch in the fourth quarter was a full-court pass to Harvey for a layup, then two possessions later, he hit a three from the right wing.

  6. Noah Butler, fr. — Butler provided a nice spark off of the bench. He used his athleticism for a nice dunk in the second quarter and he grabbed a rebound and a steal.

  7. Braden Solko, jr. — As usual, Solko played solid defense on the perimeter, limiting drives past him. He scored on layup in the second quarter and grabbed a rebound.

    — Next up: 3:15 p.m. Thursday vs. Wichita Northwest in Topeka Invitational Tournament. Record: 9-1.

Free State boys basketball

  1. Hunter Gudde, sr. — He scored 12 of his team-high 23 points in the three overtime sessions, giving the Firebirds a big boost offensively. He sat out all but two minutes in the first half because of foul trouble, and once he returned to the court he found his rhythm. He added four rebounds, a block and a steal.

  2. Sloan Thomsen, jr. — In the first half with Free State’s two leading scorers on the bench, Thomsen stepped up with some big baskets. He knocked down three triples in the first quarter, and he scored on a putback in the second quarter. The 6-foot-5 wing also had a team-high six rebounds and three assists.

  3. Kristian Rawls, sr. — Rawls knows how to play well under pressure. With 1:36 left in regulation, he knocked down two game-tying free throws. Once again down by two, he scored on a running shot in the middle of the paint before the buzzer to send the game into OT. He scored 14 points with four assists before fouling out in third OT.

  4. Jacob Pavlyak, jr. — Free State’s top defensive specialist grabbed a steal on an inbounds pass with 30 seconds left in the third OT, giving the Firebirds the ball for their game-winning possession. Pavlyak only had two points but his impact on defense was huge. He also had four assists.

  5. Darian Lewis, sr. — Off of the bench, Lewis had seven points and five rebounds, including a game-tying three-pointer in the third OT.

    “Darian hasn’t hit in a three in practice in two years,” FSHS coach Sam Stroh joked. “But he made a play. Someone has to step up and make a play. I trust the bench. Darian is the example and epitome of a team guy. Never complains about playing time. Busts his rear when he gets in there. That’s what we’re all about.”

  6. Shannon Cordes, jr. — Cordes scored 11 points, no shot bigger than his game-tying three-pointer in the first OT. He was a perfect 3-for-3 on shots inside of the arc, and he had one rebound.

  7. Cameron Clark, jr. — Clark was tasked with guarding Lee Summit’s North top post player in the final minutes of regulation and he did a good job of not allowing him to catch and turn for layups. Clark had six points and four rebounds before fouling out in the second OT.

  8. Chrision Wilburn, sr. — Plagued by foul trouble all game, Wilburn didn’t spend many minutes on the court. He scored two points and had three rebounds.

  9. Drew Tochtrop, sr. — Tochtrop turned a nightmare game into a dream ending. He scored the game-winning layup with less than two seconds left in the third overtime, making a nice play after receiving the ball from Gudde after missing his first three shot attempts.

    “I was hoping (Gudde) would pass it to me,” Tochtrop said. “But then he passed by me, and I was like, ‘Oh, he didn’t see me.’ Then he just threw it behind his head and somehow it got to me. It was a pretty easy layup from there.”

  10. Jalan Robinson, soph. — Playing in his second varsity game, Robinson scored on a layup in the second quarter.

  11. Garrett Luinstra, soph. — In the final minutes after Rawls fouled out, Luinstra took over at point guard. He didn’t take any shots but he grabbed a rebound.

  12. Simon McCaffrey, soph. — He had a nice assist on an inbounds pass to Lewis in the fourth quarter, and he missed two three-point attempts.

    — Next up: 3:45 p.m. Thursday vs. Wichita North in McPherson Tournament. Record: 7-1.

Sunflower League boys basketball standings

Team … League … Overall

Lawrence … 4-0 … 9-1

Free State … 4-0 … 7-1

SM North … 4-0 … 6-3

Olathe East … 3-1 … 7-2

Olathe South … 3-1 … 7-2

SM South … 2-2 … 5-4

SM West … 2-2 … 3-5

Olathe North …1-3 … 5-4

SM Northwest … 1-3 … 4-4

Olathe Northwest … 0-4 … 3-6

Leavenworth … 0-4 … 1-7

SM East … 0-4 … 1-8

Sunflower League girls basketball standings

Team … League … Overall

Olathe South … 4-0 … 9-0

Leavenworth … 4-0 … 8-1

Olathe East … 4-0 … 8-1

Free State … 3-1 … 6-2

SM North … 3-1 … 5-3

SM West … 3-1 … 5-4

SM Northwest … 2-2 … 7-2

SM South … 1-3 … 1-6

Lawrence … 0-4 … 4-6

Olathe North … 0-4 … 2-5

Olathe Northwest … 0-4 … 4-5

SM East … 0-4 … 0-7


As always, feel free to comment, email me, or find me on Twitter @nightengalejr.

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Free State splits against Leavenworth; seniors lead player rankings

It was easy to see the frustration on the faces of Free State High girls basketball players on Tuesday.

The Firebirds played one of their most complete games on both sides of the ball against Leavenworth, and they fell a play or two short in a 42-40 loss at FSHS.

"They were real tough. I think that’s one of the best games we’ve played as well," senior Caiti Schlesener said.

But even in a loss, there were plenty of bright spots. FSHS star junior guard Madison Piper was held scoreless in the second half and the Firebirds still had an opportunity to win in the fourth quarter against one of the top teams in the state. If Free State can compete at an elite level without its top scorer, the Firebirds become only that more dangerous.

Free State's boys basketball team played strong defense and cruised to a 48-34 win over Leavenworth. With the win, the Firebirds improved to 3-0 in the Sunflower League.

"We’re feeling pretty good," senior Hunter Gudde said of the undefeated league record. "We didn’t expect anything less. We’re just going to keep preparing for games and keep fighting like we have been."

The biggest thing for the Firebirds will be finding consistent options outside of Gudde, who is averaging 21.7 points since winter break. Seniors Kristian Rawls and Chrision Wilburn have stepped up with big games, but the Firebirds are hoping to find a little more consistency from their entire team.

"We’re seeing individuals get better but we need five, six, seven at the same time and same night get better," FSHS coach Sam Stroh said. "That’ll be kind of the goal. We’ll take it one game at a time."


In case you missed it, we're copying one of the popular features of KUsports.com, "Keegan's Ratings," where Sports Editor Tom Keegan ranks KU football and men's basketball players after every game he attends. These individual rankings are just one person's opinion, but it's a good way to look at how each person impacted each game.

Free State girls basketball

  1. Caiti Schlesener, sr. — When the Firebirds needed somebody to step up on offense in the second half, Schlesener responded play after play. She scored a game-high 12 points (all in the second half) with drives to the rim and finishing through contact. She added two assists and a steal.

  2. Madison Piper, jr. — Piper was dominant in the first half, scoring 11 points on 5-of-5 shooting from the field. In the second half, Leavenworth refused to let her take any open shots and Piper was held scoreless. Despite being kept away from the ball, Piper nearly had a double-double with nine rebounds.

  3. Hannah Walter, sr. — Walter just knows how to be in the right places at the right time. On two inbounds passes, she snuck backdoor for open layups. Defensively, she led the Firebirds with two steals. Walter was close to a double-double with eight points and seven rebounds.

  4. Peyton Brown, sr. — In the fourth quarter, Brown scored four points at the free throw line. She finished with six points, two rebounds, an assist and a steal.

  5. Cameryn Thomas, soph. — Thomas had to deal with a lot of traps and double-teams around mid-court. She scored one point, had two rebounds, an assist and a steal.

  6. Jaelyn Two Hearts, soph. — Two Hearts was active on both sides of the court. She only scored two points, but had two assists and provided good ball handling. She added three rebounds and a block in the paint.

  7. Jaycie Bishop, jr. — As usual, Bishop played solid defense on the perimeter, preventing drives and passes. She had one steal, one assist and didn’t attempt any shots.

    — Next up: 5:30 p.m. Friday at Olathe Northwest. Record: 5-2.

Free State boys basketball

  1. Hunter Gudde, sr. — After being shutout in the first half, missing both of his shots, Gudde created some offense for the Firebirds in the last two quarters. He scored a game-high 15 points on 5-of-8 shooting, finding ways to the rim for layups. He added three rebounds, two steals and a block.

  2. Chrision Wilburn, sr. — Wilburn helped the Firebirds to their quick start, scoring six of his eight points in the first four minutes. He did a good job of finding space in the paint, and his teammates were smart to feed him the ball. He also had three rebounds.

  3. Jacob Pavylak, jr. — Pavlyak played strong defense, grabbing a steal and going coast-to-coast for a layup in the second quarter. He does a great job of providing ball pressure and denying passes. He finished with five points and two rebounds.

  4. Kristian Rawls, sr. — Rawls had some key moments, scoring five points with two rebounds, two assists and two steals. He had to sit with a little bit of foul trouble, but when he was on the court, he did a good job of slashing into the paint.

  5. Shannon Cordes, jr. — In the third quarter, Cordes scored five straight points. He knocked down a triple, then grabbed a steal and went coast-to-coast for a layup. He finished with seven points and two steals.

  6. Cameron Clark, jr. — In his varsity debut, Clark picked up some big minutes. He scored four points, including a layup in the fourth quarter. He added two rebounds.

  7. Sloan Thomsen, jr. — Thomsen had some open looks, but couldn’t get his shot to drop. Instead, he was big for the Firebirds on the glass, grabbing a team-high six rebounds.

  8. Reece White-Downing, soph. — He scored two points in the second quarter, following up on his own missed shot.

  9. Darian Lewis, sr. — Lewis knocked down two free throws and played solid defense.

  10. Drew Tochtrop, sr. — Tochtrop was active and brought good energy, but he missed both of his shot attempts.

  11. Simon McCaffrey, soph. — McCaffrey crossed a defender over with nice ball handling, but missed the three-pointer to complete the highlight.

  12. Garrett Lunistra, soph. — Entered in the final minute, but didn’t record any stats.

    — Next up: 7 p.m. Friday at Olathe Northwest. Record: 5-1.

As always, feel free to comment, email me, or find me on Twitter @nightengalejr.

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Lions sweep City Showdown; guards mostly top player rankings

At this point of the high school basketball season, wins and losses don't mean a ton. But a win in the City Showdown meant everything for Lawrence High's girls basketball team.

The Lions picked up one of their biggest wins in the past few seasons with a 49-48 victory against Free State on Friday at LHS. It ended a 12-game losing streak to the Firebirds, and tossed the proverbial monkey off of their back.

For a young LHS team, it's a confidence boost that could be crucial going into winter break and into Sunflower League play. The losing streak never bothered the Lions, but I think it was validation that their hard work was paying off with a signature win against a top ranked team in the state.

For the Firebirds, it was a tough way to head into winter break, but they have plenty of talent and have to be considered contenders at the top of the league. They shot 29 percent from the field and only lost by a point. The biggest key will be finding consistent No. 2 and No. 3 scorers behind junior Madison Piper.

Lawrence High's boys basketball team rolled to a 79-65 victory over Free State at LHS. The Lions had all of the momentum in the second half, drilling shots and grabbing 50-50 balls.

It's impressive how well some of the new starters (Fred Brou, Anthony Harvey and Jackson Mallory) have played for the Lions, stepping into a much bigger role after coming off of the bench last year. I think the Lions have to be thrilled to end their December schedule with a 5-1 record after playing some quality teams.

The Firebirds showed a ton of poise in the first half, taking a six-point halftime lead in a raucous environment on the road. The ball didn't roll their way in the second half, but that's not an easy game to play in just your third game of the season. It'll be fun to see how this team improves after winter break.

Free State senior Chrision Wilburn, left, defends Lawrence High senior Justin Roberts, right, while Roberts eyes the basket during their game Friday evening at LHS.

Free State senior Chrision Wilburn, left, defends Lawrence High senior Justin Roberts, right, while Roberts eyes the basket during their game Friday evening at LHS. by John Young


In case you missed it, we're copying one of the popular features of KUsports.com, "Keegan's Ratings," where Sports Editor Tom Keegan ranks KU football and men's basketball players after every game he attends. These individual rankings are just one person's opinion, but it's a good way to look at how each person impacted each game.

Free State girls basketball

  1. Jaelyn Two Hearts, soph. — The Firebirds needed some offense and Two Hearts stepped up and knocked down big shots. At the end of the first half, Two Hearts scored eight points in a two-minute stretch, draining a pair of threes. In the final seconds, she did a good job of creating space for a potential game-winning shot. She added five rebounds and a steal.

  2. Madison Piper, jr. — The Lions focused on stopping Piper and she was held to 10 points. But even on an off night shooting the ball (3-for-16), that didn’t stop her from making a big impact. She nearly had a double-double with nine rebounds, to go along with four assists, two blocks and some great defensive plays in the second half.

  3. Cameryn Thomas, soph. — Thomas only recorded one steal, but she was a huge reason the Lions had 19 turnovers because of her full-court pressure. The 5-foot-7 point guard added six points and five boards, including a key rebound with under 30 seconds left on a missed free throw.

  4. Hannah Walter, sr. — When the Firebirds struggled to create offense in the first quarter, Walter stepped up with a free throw and a layup. She ended up with seven points, five rebounds and two steals.

  5. Caiti Schlesener, sr. — The senior transfer from Topeka Cornerstone just knows how to step up in crunch time. In the fourth quarter, Schlesener hit a huge three-pointer with 1:02 left, cutting the Firebirds’ deficit to one point. She finished with nine points and three steals.

  6. Peyton Brown, sr. — Brown had a tough defensive assignment in the first half, guarding the 6-3 Ajekwu, but that didn’t stop her from grabbing tough rebounds. Brown had five boards and assisted on a three-pointer by Two Hearts.

  7. Jaycie Bishop, jr. — Drained a huge three-pointer in the third quarter after the Lions went on a 5-0 run to tie the game. Bishop added a steal in the first quarter.

    — Next up: 5:30 p.m. Jan. 5 at SM East. Record: 3-1.

Free State boys basketball

  1. Chrision Wilburn, sr. — Wilburn had a tough matchup, lining up against some athletic forwards. But he held his own, scoring 13 points with five rebounds and two assists. He scored an and-one in the first quarter and hit a nice jumper to open the second half.

  2. Hunter Gudde, sr. — The 6-foot-2 senior did a good job in the third quarter earning trips to the free throw line with strong drives to the rim. He also had a nice coast-to-coast layup in the fourth quarter. He scored 13 points and added five rebounds.

  3. Sloan Thomsen, jr. — Thomsen carried the Firebirds in the second quarter, scoring nine points. Usually known as a sharpshooter, he dominated with putbacks, doing a good job of reading misses off of the rim. He had 12 points and five rebounds.

  4. Jay Dineen, jr. — Dineen brought a ton of energy off of the bench for the Firebirds, making plays on both sides of the court. He scored nine points, including a buzzer-beating layup at the end of the third quarter on a wild sequence with a few turnovers by both squads. He added four rebounds and a block.

  5. Kristian Rawls, sr. — In the fourth quarter, Rawls did his best to keep his team in the game with free throws and a layup on back-to-back possessions. He just didn’t have many driving lanes throughout the night, finishing with seven points and two rebounds.

  6. Jacob Pavylak, jr. — Pavlyak played well defensively in the first half, preventing drives to the rim. He had three points, scoring the first FSHS points of the game. He also had a steal and an assist.

  7. Drew Tochtrop, sr. — A versatile defender, Tochtrop didn’t attempt any shots but played solid defense in the paint and on the perimeter. He had a rebound, assist and a steal.

  8. Shannon Cordes, jr. — Cordes drilled a three-pointer during the second quarter, shooting 1-for-5 from the field.

  9. Simon McCaffrey, soph. — Playing in his first City Showdown, McCaffrey scored on a layup in the third quarter and he missed a three-pointer. He also assisted on a bucket by Cordes.

  10. Darian Lewis, sr. — Lewis missed his only shot attempt, but he grabbed two rebounds.

    — Next up: 7 p.m. Jan. 5 at SM East. Record: 2-1.

Lawrence High girls basketball

  1. Skylar Drum, jr. — Drum was tasked with her toughest defensive assignment of the season and she used her athleticism to slow down Madison Piper, last year’s Sunflower League Player of the Year. On offense, Drum drained a clutch jumper to give the Lions a lead in the fourth quarter. She had six points, six rebounds, two assists and a steal.

  2. Chisom Ajekwu, fr. — Nobody was more dominant in the first half. Ajekwu used her 6-foot-3 length to score on putbacks in the paint. She completed a double-double by halftime and finished with a team-high 12 points and 16 rebounds. The Firebirds denied her the ball in the post in the second half, but Ajekwu cleaned up the glass in the final minute, grabbing two key rebounds on Free State missed shots.

  3. E’lease Stafford, soph. — In the fourth quarter, playing with four fouls, Stafford carried the Lions on offense. She gave them the lead for good on a putback and she made two free throws after a nice drive to the rim. She ended up with 10 points, eight rebounds and three assists.

  4. Alexis Boyd, sr. — It looked the like the wheels were going to fall off for the Lions in the third quarter when Stafford went to the bench in foul trouble and they had a few turnovers on offense. Then Boyd stepped up with five straight points, using her height in the post to make baskets from close range.

  5. Olivia Lemus, jr. — Lemus didn’t have her best night shooting the ball, but she’s never scared to pull the trigger when she finds space behind the three-point line. Lemus knocked down some huge shots in the second half, giving the Lions momentum. She had 10 points, three assists and two steals.

  6. Hannah Stewart, fr. — Against a full-court press for most of the night, Stewart was poised in her first City Showdown. She had a couple of turnovers, but she didn’t let that affect her. Stewart scored two points and grabbed three rebounds.

  7. Gracie Reinsch, sr. — Reinsch recorded all of her stats on one offensive possession, missing a layup, but scoring on the putback. She always brings good energy for the Lions when she’s on the court.

  8. Talima Harjo, soph. — When Drum needed some rest on the bench, Harjo guarded Piper and did a good job of running through screens. She missed two shots, but grabbed a rebound.

  9. Leslie Ostronic, fr. — Ostronic didn’t attempt any shots, but grabbed two rebounds off of the bench.

  10. Emma Bentzinger, sr. — Bentzinger does a solid job of denying passes in the post. She missed her only shot attempt.

    — Next up: 5:30 p.m. Jan. 5 at Leavenworth. Record: 4-2.

Lawrence High boys basketball

  1. Justin Roberts, sr. — The bigger the game, the better Roberts usually plays. He was in rhythm offensively, scoring a game-high 27 points on 10-of-17 shooting, including eight points in a 14-1 run in the third quarter and an assist on a dunk by Fred Brou. Roberts had three rebounds and two assists.

  2. Price Morgan, sr. — Morgan picked up his second foul with more than three minutes left in the first quarter. He sat for a long stretch, but credit to him for staying in rhythm when he returned to the court. He scored nine points in the third quarter, taking defenders off of the dribble or posting up in the low post. He finished with 20 points and four rebounds.

  3. Fred Brou, sr. — Brou was amped in the first few minutes, skying high for rebounds but missing his first three shots. Once he settled in, he was a dominant force. He scored five of his 12 points in the fourth quarter, including a one-handed slam that likely closed the door on any comeback attempt with three minutes left. He completed a double-double with 10 rebounds and made some nice passes, dishing three assists.

  4. Jackson Mallory, jr. — When the Lions are playing at their best, Mallory is usually a big reason behind it. He didn’t shoot the ball particularly well, but he has great vision and sets his teammates up for easy baskets, and he plays solid defense. Mallory had five points, seven rebounds, five assists and three steals.

  5. Anthony Harvey, sr. — Harvey just knows how to hit big shots during key moments. He drilled a pair of three-pointers and he opened the fourth quarter with a nice drive down the lane for a layup. He added four rebounds.

  6. Kobe Buffalomeat, jr. — Buffalomeat is only becoming more comfortable on the defensive end. He had a big block on a layup attempt in the second quarter, wshihc quickly turned into a layup for Roberts. Buffalomeat had four points and a rebound.

  7. Braden Solko, jr. — Solko played solid defense on the perimeter, grabbing a steal in the second quarter. He added a layup near the end of the first quarter, assisted from Mallory.

  8. Austin Miller, jr. — Missed a three-pointer at the end of the first quarter, his only shot attempt.

    — Next up: 7 p.m. Jan. 5 at Leavenworth. Record: 5-1.

    Free State junior Madison Piper (14 ) lines up a three point shot over Lawrence High junior Skylar Drum (3) during their game Friday evening at LHS.

    Free State junior Madison Piper (14 ) lines up a three point shot over Lawrence High junior Skylar Drum (3) during their game Friday evening at LHS. by John Young


As always, feel free to comment, email me, or find me on Twitter @nightengalejr.

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Free State basketball sweeps Mill Valley; Piper and Wilburn lead player rankings

After chatting with his team in the locker room Friday, Free State High girls basketball coach Bryan Duncan said, "We learned a lot about ourselves tonight."

He was speaking about his team, but the same thing applied the boys basketball team, after both of the Free State squads earned comeback victories against ranked Mill Valley teams.

The FSHS girls won 55-46 over Mill Valley in their home debut, making a big charge in the third quarter. The Firebirds were "embarrassed" by their play in the first half, so they came out of the locker room at halftime angry, and that helped fuel them for the second half.

The Firebirds have a lot of speed with their guards and can score in a hurry. They also proved they can take over games on the defensive end when their offense isn't in rhythm.

Free State's boys basketball team fought back from a 10-point deficit with six minutes left in a 68-63 victory against Mill Valley. It was hard to learn much about this team after FSHS rolled to a huge win over AC Prep in its season opener.

But following Friday's comeback, the Firebirds proved they can compete with top teams. They have some guys in big roles without much varsity experience, and they played with poise down the stretch. Heading into a road game against their crosstown rivals next week, I think the Firebirds have shown they'll be ready to play.

Lawrence High's boys basketball team suffered its first loss of the season, 77-68, to Lee's Summit in the Blue Valley Shootout championship game. The Lions lost to a tough Lee's Summit team (3-0, ranked No. 6 in Missouri's Class 5), but have really shown they can slow down athletic guards with their zone defense. Justin Roberts and Fred Brou were named to the All-Tournament team.

Meanwhile, Lawrence's girls basketball team lost, 70-51, to Shawnee Heights on Friday. Fortunately, the Lions won't have much time to dwell on the loss. They have three games this week, starting with Topeka West at 7 p.m. Monday in their home opener.


In case you missed it, we're copying one of the popular features of KUsports.com, "Keegan's Ratings," where Sports Editor Tom Keegan ranks KU football and men's basketball players after every game he attends. These individual rankings are just one person's opinion, but it's a good way to look at how each person impacted each game.

Free State girls basketball

  1. Madison Piper, jr. — It’s nothing new, but when Piper finds her rhythm on offense, the Firebirds become such a dangerous team. After scoring five points on 2-of-9 shooting in the first half, Piper scored 13 points in the third quarter while making five straight shots including a buzzer-beater. She had a game-high 25 points, but was also big on the defensive end, guarding Mill Valley’s Catie Kaifes (19 points), who was a first-team All-Kaw Valley League pick last year.

  2. Cameryn Thomas, soph. — After the Firebirds’ comeback victory, everyone was crediting Thomas for sparking her team with her defense in the second half. A three-sport athlete, Thomas wore down Mill Valley guards with her speed and aggressive defense. She also had a huge and-one layup in the third quarter. Thomas had five points and three steals.

  3. Hannah Walter, sr. — One of those glue players that does a little bit of everything, Walter was huge for the Firebirds on Friday. She had six points, six rebounds and five assists, doing a great job of making the extra pass on offense.

  4. Peyton Brown, sr. — Brown has the athletic ability to frustrate opposing players. Brown finished with six points, four rebounds and three steals, including four points in the second quarter when Free State struggled to create offense.

  5. Caiti Schlesener, sr. — In the first half, Schlesener struggled with her shot and was in foul trouble. After she took off the wrap on her right hand, she made some huge plays in the second half using her speed. She scored six points, including back-to-back layups through traffic in the fourth quarter. She added two rebounds, an assist and a steal.

  6. Jaelyn Two Hearts, soph. — Two Hearts gave the Firebirds their first lead in the second half when she drilled a three-pointer from the corner. In the fourth quarter, she grabbed a steal and passed the ball up to Schlesener for a layup. Two Hearts was active defensively and had two rebounds, two assists and two steals.

  7. Jaycie Bishop, jr. — Bishop was huge in the first quarter when the Firebirds were struggling for offense. She scored four of her team’s eight points, scoring on a layup and knocking down a jumper. As usual, she played solid defense on the perimeter.

    — Next up: 5:30 p.m. Friday at Lawrence. Record: 3-0.

Free State boys basketball

  1. Chrision Wilburn, sr. — Wilburn might be the most improved player in the city this season. He can score in a variety of ways: knocking down jumpers, posting up or scoring in one-on-one matchups. On defense, Wilburn can guard anybody. He lined up against Mill Valley point guard Logan Koch in the first half and moved to 6-foot-8 center Clayton Holmberg down the stretch. Wilburn ended up with 19 points, six rebounds and two steals.

  2. Kristian Rawls, sr. — It’s hard to believe it was only the second varsity start of Rawls’ career. He was the driving force behind the Firebirds’ comeback, scoring nine of his team-high 21 points in the fourth quarter. He added three rebounds and an assist.

  3. Hunter Gudde, sr. — In the first half, Gudde was face-guarded by Koch and was held to four points. Credit to Gudde for not trying to force anything on offense, especially when the Firebirds fell behind in the second quarter. In the second half, Gudde found his rhythm and finished with 12 points and five rebounds with two and-one buckets in the fourth quarter.

  4. Jay Dineen, jr. — Dineen didn’t attempt any shots, but he stepped up on the defensive end. He guarded Koch in the fourth quarter, forcing the Eastern Illinois signee to pass the ball down the stretch instead of firing away from three. Dineen finished with four rebounds, one assist and a steal.

  5. Jacob Pavlyak, jr. — On the stat sheet, Pavlyak only had two points, two rebounds, an assist and a steal. But he provided much more than that for the Firebirds. He was one of their top defenders during crunch time, helping slow down the Jaguars in the fourth quarter. His two points (free throws) also gave the Firebirds a four-point lead in the final 30 seconds.

  6. Shannon Cordes, jr. — Not many players step up bigger in the final 90 seconds of quarters like Cordes has in the first two games. In the first quarter, he scored five points, including a layup with 0:54 left. He added a layup-and-the-foul with 1:22 left in the second quarter. He finished with eight points, a rebound and a steal.

  7. Sloan Thomsen, jr. — Second straight game Thomsen has opened the scoring for the Firebirds. He drilled two triples and grabbed three rebounds.

  8. Drew Tochtrop, sr. — Tochtrop didn’t record any stats, but was tasked with some tough defensive assignments when he was on the court.

  9. Darian Lewis, sr. — Lewis was a defensive sub at moments in the fourth quarter. He missed his only shot attempt.

  10. Simon McCaffrey, soph. — He played for about one minute in the second quarter, spelling Rawls at point guard. He grabbed a rebound and missed a three-pointer.

    — Next up: 7 p.m. Friday at Lawrence. Record: 2-0.

As always, feel free to comment, email me, or find me on Twitter @nightengalejr.

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Alumni watch: College Basketball

The high school basketball season started last week, but for several Lawrence natives, their basketball season began last month when their college seasons began.

Most of these former Lawrence High, Free State and Bishop Seabury basketball players are about 10 games into their season, and here's a look at how they've been playing (stats through Saturday, Dec. 5):

John Barbee, Barton CC (Lawrence High): 13 games, 5.5 points, 2.2 rebounds, 22 total assists and 20 total steals.

Makayla Bell, Neosho CC (Lawrence High): 10 games, 12.1 points, 5.2 rebounds and 9 total steals.

Anthony Bonner, Colorado State (Lawrence High): DNP

Thomas Diaz, Texas A&M Kingsville (Seabury): 7 games, 1.0 points, 1.6 rebounds, 3 total steals and 3 blocks.

Ariana Frantz, St. Mary’s (Free State): 2 games, 2 total points and 1 steal.

Brett Frantz, Youngstown St. (Free State): 9 games, 3.6 points, 1.4 rebounds and 10 total assists.

Summer Frantz, St. Mary’s (Free State): 7 games, 1.3 points and 0.4 rebounds.

Georgi Funtarov, UC-Davis (Free State/Seabury): 2 game, 3 total points and 7 rebounds.

Lex Gaumer, DePauw (Seabury): 3 games, 5 total assists, 2 rebounds and 0-for-5 from the floor.

Courtney Hoag, Baker (Free State/Seabury): 9 games, 3.4 points, 3.2 rebounds and 15 blocks.

Kyle Hoffman, Ottawa (Lawrence High): DNP

Kennedy Kirkpatrick, Bowling Green (Free State): 7 games, 6.9 points, 2.1 rebounds and 12 total assists.

Khadre Lane, Campbell (Free State/Seabury): 1 game, 1 total point, 2 rebounds and 3 assists.

Evan Manning, Kansas (Free State): 4 games, 6 total points and 1 rebound.

Jake Mosiman, Arkansas (Lawrence High): 1 game, 1 minute, 0-for-1 from the field.

Justin Narcomey, Haskell (Free State): No stats available

Marissa Pope, Cowley CC (Lawrence High): 10 games, 5.0 points, 1.4 rebounds, 21 total assists and 8 steals.

KJ Pritchard, Clarendon College (Lawrence High): 11 games, 15.9 points, 4.2 rebounds, 3.0 assists, and shooting 40-for-72 from deep.

Ben Rajewski, Simpson College (Lawrence High): 7 games, 3.7 points, 0.9 rebounds, shooting 7-of-17 from deep.

Jack Raney, Ottawa (Free State): DNP

Tyler Self, Kansas (Free State): 4 games, 3 total points, 2 rebounds and 2 assists.


As always, feel free to comment, email me, or find me on Twitter @nightengalejr. If I forgot somebody (probably), please let me know and I'll add him/her to the list.

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