Senior manager Kyle Portela nets first basket in Free State’s 69-63 win

photo by: Chris Duderstadt

Free State boys basketball manager Kyle Portela, who has cerebral palsy, makes a layup to open the Firebirds’ 69-63 senior night win over Shawnee Mission Northwest on Monday.

When the Free State boys basketball team steps on to the court, it’s rare for anyone to have a bigger smile than senior manager Kyle Portela.

Portela’s smile was even bigger than usual for Free State’s game on Monday against Shawnee Mission Northwest. In the game’s opening seconds, Portela was on the court with the ball in his hands instead of on the bench with a towel or water bottle. Portela, who has cerebral palsy, scored the first points in the Firebirds’ 69-63 win over the Cougars.

The Firebirds countered the Cougars’ gesture by allowing Damar’e Smith to even the score at 2-2.

“It was pretty special,” said Portela, who will be attending Johnson County Community College next fall and eventually study business. “I’ve already done it before when I was in eighth grade, but to do it again … it was just a rush.”

Portela prides himself on his manager role, and considers everyone in the basketball program as family. Free State coach Sam Stroh called Portela his hero.

“They couldn’t do anything without me, not to brag,” Portela said with a laugh, “and I couldn’t do anything without them.”

Joining Portela in being honored in a senior night ceremony before the game were Jaxson Webb (Fort Hays State baseball commit), Noah Butler (undecided on college plans), Ryan Stacey (plans to attend the University of Kansas) and co-manager Keaton Thompson.

Butler led the way for the Firebirds with 24 points, 20 of which came in the second half.

“Obviously with Noah, we wouldn’t be where we are without him,” Stroh said. “He played like a senior tonight and helped us get a win.”

Junior DK Middleton (11 points) and Stacey (10 points) also reached double figures.

The Firebirds led, 46-39, to open the fourth quarter, but the Cougars rallied to take a 54-53 lead. Stroh was proud of how his squad handled adversity.

“They made a nice run and they can shoot the ball, so credit to them and their coaches,” Stroh said of the Cougars.

The Firebirds closed the regular season with a record of 13-6, while the Cougars fell to 6-13.

“We’re excited where we are, but there is still work to be done,” Stroh said.

Free State 19 14 13 23– 69

SMNW 18 12 9 24– 63

Free State (69)

Kyle Portela 1-2 0-0 2, Mozae Downing 1-3 4-4 6, Noah Butler 9-10 5-9 24, DK Middleton 5-10 1-3 11, Ryan Stacey 5-10 0-1 12, Andrew Piper 2-6 2-3 6, Ethan Lincoln 0-2 0-0 0, Jaxson Webb 0-0 0-0 0, Turner Corcoran 0-0 0-0 0, Olin Yoder 0-1 0-0 0, Alyus Wisdom 3-5 0-0 7. Totals: 26-47 12-20 69.

SM Northwest (63)

Ty Lindenman 0-3 0-0 0, Dale Talley III 6-13 2-2 16, Peyton Carder 1-1 0-0 3, Damar’e Smith 8-15 3-4 22, Ty Black 0-0 0-0 0, Logan Skeens 4-8 3-3 13, Evan Higgins 0-1 0-0 0, Luke Towler 4-7 0-0 12, Dylan Brunner 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 23-46 8-9 63.

3-point goals: Free State 4-13 (Ryan Stacey 2, Alyus Wisdom 1, Noah Butler 1); SM Northwest 11-24 (Luke Towler 3, Damar’e Smith 3, Dale Talley 2, Logan Skeens 2, Peyton Carder 1). Turnovers: Free State 5, SM Northwest 8. Fouled out: None.


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