Free State girls fall just short of state
Free State High’s girls basketball coach Bryan Duncan thought to himself for a few seconds and struggled to come up with any words to describe how he felt after Saturday’s sub-state championship game.
It was just too painful.
The Firebirds fell just short of a trip to the state tournament in a 49-45 loss to Shawnee Mission West at FSHS.
Free State trailed by one point after freshman point guard Cameryn Thomas scored on a putback with 2:02 remaining. After the teams traded turnovers, SM West senior Paige Henderson made one free throw to push the Vikings’ lead to 47-45 with 39 seconds left.
The Vikings did their best to prevent Free State’s top scoring threat, sophomore Madison Piper, from shooting at the top of the arc, and that led to a three-point attempt on the left wing from sophomore Jaycie Bishop, whose shot bounced off of the back iron. Thomas grabbed the offensive rebound and was fouled, but missed both free throws.
SM West senior Morgan Mauck went 1-for-2 at the free-throw line to increase the Vikings’ lead to three points. Sophomore forward Mackenzie Loe grabbed the offensive rebound on the missed free throw and was promptly fouled. Loe missed the first, but made the second to give SM West a four-point advantage and clinch a spot in the state tournament next week in Wichita.
“Tonight, they just got us,” Duncan said. “We were down the whole way, but I told our players after the game, it felt like we were going to come back and steal that one in the last minute-and-a-half. It just didn’t have that fairy-tale ending tonight.”
After trailing by eight at halftime, the Firebirds (17-5) opened the second half with an 11-4 run over the first five minutes. Senior forwards Adriana Jadlow and Sarah Coversup each scored four points in the stretch through layups, and Piper, who assisted on two of those baskets, drained a three-pointer.
But the Vikings (14-8) continued to fight back with inside baskets by the 6-foot Loe, who had 17 points, nine rebounds and five steals. Mauck, who led the Sunflower League in scoring, also had 17 points.
“They were really tough to stop,” Piper said. “They just kept going inside, and we couldn’t get a rebound. I wasn’t boxing out. I wasn’t doing my job. We just couldn’t get it done.”
Free State finally broke through in the fourth quarter for two brief leads. After Coversup scored five points in the first two minutes, Thomas put the Firebirds up 41-40 with 4:30 left following two made free throws. The Vikings answered with two offensive rebounds on their next possession before Mauck was fouled and made her own set of free throws.
On the next possession, Thomas gave the Firebirds the lead right back after driving into the paint and scoring on a floater for a 43-42 advantage. But Loe knocked down a jump shot from the free-throw line to retake the lead, and following a missed FSHS three-pointer, Mauck was fouled during the rebound and made two more free throws.
“I felt like our team … we never really got down on ourselves, and we were never negative,” said Bishop, who scored eight points in the second quarter, including back-to-back threes. “It was a hard-fought game, and you could tell there was a step up for all the players when it comes to aggression, ball movement, offense and defense. So that was really good to see from our team in our last game.”
The Vikings were focused on stopping Piper and Coversup, using a 3-2 zone and always keeping a defender next to Piper, switching through screens. Coversup scored a team-high 13 points, with 10 in the second half, and Piper was held to seven. Thomas added 10 points and nine rebounds.
“The truth is, I thought we played a good game,” Duncan said. “On both ends of the floor, I thought we played real well. You just have to give them a lot of credit, too.”
SHAWNEE MISSION WEST (49)
Addison Arner 0-3 0-2 0, Paige Henderson 0-2 1-2 1, Morgan Mauck 5-12 7-10 17, Delaney Miller 1-3 2-4 5, Mackenzie Loe 6-14 5-8 17, Emma Beason 1-1 0-0 3, Alyx Kemp 2-4 2-2 6. Totals 15-39 17-28 49.
FREE STATE (45)
Cameryn Thomas 2-6 6-8 10, Jaycie Bishop 3-12 0-0 8, Adriana Jadlow 2-3 1-2 5, Madison Piper 3-10 0-0 7, Sarah Coversup 5-5 3-7 13, Hannah Shoemaker 1-1 0-0 2, Morgan Gantz 0-0 0-0 0, Peyton Brown 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 16-37 10-17 45.
SM West 8 20 8 13 — 49
Free State 6 14 12 13 — 45
Three-point field goals: SM West 2-5 (Miller, Beason); Free State 3-13 (Bishop 2, Piper). Fouled out: Jadlow. Turnovers: SM West 11, Free State 14.