Piper keys rally by Free State girls

Madison Piper drives to the paint as Free State girls played Shawnee Mission West Tuesday in Overland Park. The Firebirds won, 55-52.

? With her team trailing on the road in the fourth quarter Tuesday night, Free State High sophomore guard Madison Piper had seen her previous seven shots rim out. She hadn’t made a basket since the final minutes of the second quarter. But none of that mattered in crunch time.

Piper made two three-pointers and four of her last six field-goal attempts in the final five minutes, willing the Firebirds to a 55-52 win at Shawnee Mission West.

“There was a moment where I did get down on myself,” said Piper, who had made just three of her first 15 shots before scoring 14 of the final 15 points for FSHS, “and I just thought, ‘My team needs me. We need each other.’ One person can bring down the whole team, so I needed to step up, and that’s when I decided I wouldn’t let it get to my head.”

Despite Piper making three straight baskets in a span of 1:02 midway through the fourth quarter to give Free State (15-4, No. 9 in Class 6A) a four-point lead at No. 8 SM West, the Vikings — led by senior Morgan Mauck’s 25-point night — took a 52-51 lead with 1:42 to play when sophomore post Kenzie Loe (17 points) scored inside.

Piper, who finished with 25 points and eight rebounds, missed a put-back on the offensive glass on the ensuing possession. But she would get another chance.

FSHS still trailed by a point, and Piper drained a difficult fade-away jumper on the right baseline with 23 seconds remaining.

“I knew we needed a shot,” the smiling sophomore said afterward. “I think that adrenaline just hit me, and I don’t usually practice that shot. I had a nice follow-through, and I knew it was going to go in.”

Her coach, Bryan Duncan, couldn’t take credit for the go-ahead basket.

“I’d like to say that’s something we drew up,” he said. “That’s just Madison being Madison.”

After SMW senior Paige Henderson missed a three-pointer, Piper snagged the defensive rebound, and went to the foul line with 7.5 seconds left for a one-and-one. She stepped to the line with confidence and buried them both.

“I wanted to win this game so bad. I knew I needed to calm myself. I kind of held my breath that first free throw,” Piper said. “Then I kind of relaxed.”

Earlier in the game, Piper’s teammates helped pick up the slack and keep Free State in the game when her shots weren’t falling. Freshman Cameryn Thomas and seniors Sarah Coversup and Adriana Jadlow all made a field goal apiece in the first quarter. In the third, when Piper shot 0-for-5, Coversup and fellow senior Hannah Shoemaker scored four points apiece.

But neither Coversup (14 points, six rebounds) nor Shoemaker was available for the stretch run, as both fouled out in the final four minutes of the game.

Duncan, who had to play some lineups he described as “interesting” because of the foul issues, said all the Firebirds made winning plays in the face of adversity. And, ultimately, they realized what to do with the game on the line.

“The kids were smart enough to know where the ball should go,” Duncan said.


Madison Piper 7-21 6-6 25, Sarah Coversup 5-9 4-9 14, Jaycie Bishop 0-1 0-0 0, Adriana Jadlow 3-6 1-2 7, Hannah Walter 0-0 1-2 1, Cameryn Thomas 1-6 2-3 4, Hannah Shoemaker 2-4 0-0 4, Morgan Gantz 0-0 0-0 0, Peyton Brown 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 18-47 14-21 55.

SM WEST (52)

Emma Benson 0-1 0-0 0, Paige Henderson 1-4 0-0 3, Morgan Mauck 8-14 9-16 24, Delaney Miller 2-6 1-2 5, Kenzie Loe 7-14 3-5 17, Alyx Kemp 1-1 0-3 2. Totals 19-40 13-25 52.

Free State 10 16 11 18 — 55

SM West 13 9 14 16 — 52

Three-point goals: FSHS 5-8 (Piper 5); SMW 1-4 (Henderson). Fouled out: Shoemaker, Coversup, FSHS. Turnovers: FSHS 14, SMW 12.