FSHS, LHS girls set sub-state sights high

Free State High’s girls basketball team set a school record by winning 16 regular-season games, but starting today, none of those matter to the Firebirds.

The No. 2-seeded Firebirds (16-4) will host No. 7-seeded Wyandotte (1-14) at 7 p.m. Thursday at FSHS in the first round of its sub-state tournament.

“One of the top team goals on the season from start to finish has been to make the state tournament, so certainly that goal is still out there and still attainable,” Free State coach Bryan Duncan said. “They are extremely hungry to get that.”

The Firebirds’ hunger has also been fueled by their late-season success. FSHS has ripped off four straight wins to close out the regular season, defeating Shawnee Mission South, Olathe East, Shawnee Mission West and Lawrence High.

“I feel like everything we’ve worked for is starting to pay off,” senior Adriana Jadlow said. “We’re really confident going into sub-state right now.”

Despite their four-game winning streak, the Firebirds are still not taking the one-win Bulldogs lightly.

“Every game you’ve got to be prepared for,” Duncan said. “We’ll be as prepared for them as anybody else. Obviously our goal is to win a two-game tournament here and not just win one.”

The winner of tonight’s matchup will go on to play the winner of No. 6-seeded Shawnee Mission North vs. No. 3-seeded Shawnee Mission West. If the Firebirds defeat Wyandotte, they will host the second-round matchup at 7 p.m. Saturday at FSHS for a chance to qualify for the Kansas 6A state tournament March 11-14 in Wichita.

FSHS is looking to reach the state tournament for the first time since 2010.

While the Firebirds have home-court advantage throughout their sub-state tournament, Lawrence High (6-14) will have to hit the road for its opening game. The No. 5-seeded Lions will square off against No. 4-seeded Shawnee Mission South (7-13) at 7 p.m. Thursday in Overland Park.

LHS lost to SM South, 57-44, in its previous matchup on Feb. 6 against the Raiders. The Lions rallied in the second half, but could not overcome a 13-0 run by the Raiders to open the game.

“They jumped all over us early in that game,” LHS coach Jeff Dickson said. “We battled back in the second half and got it within single digits. That was kind of a wake-up call for us the second half of the season.”

The Lions gained confidence from the setback to the Raiders, realizing that they were on the cusp of having what it takes to win on the road in the Sunflower League. LHS has not lost on the road since, winning three straight against Shawnee Mission North, Olathe North and Shawnee Mission East prior to falling Friday to Free State.

“We have a lot to prove and a lot to overcome,” junior Alexis Boyd said. “We’re not done.”

Should the Lions avenge their regular-season loss to the Raiders, they will move on to face the winner of No. 8-seeded Shawnee Mission East vs. No. 1-seeded Shawnee Mission Northwest at 7 p.m. Saturday at the location of the highest remaining seed.