Despite successful defensive night, Free State comes up short in overtime 39-37 to Shawnee Mission East

Cutline: Free State coach Nick Wood talks to his team in the huddle at the end of the first quarter. Free State fell to Shawnee Mission East 39-37 on Friday, Feb. 14.

Prairie Village — In recent weeks, Free State has upped the aggressiveness of its defense, opting for more backcourt pressure. The Firebirds have been successful to varying degrees, but when it works, Free State has proven to be a tough beat.

“We’re trying to have an attack mindset and trying to create more possessions in the game for us offensively,” Free State coach Nick Wood said. “And we’re trying to create some offense through our defense. We’re getting the game going at the speed that we want, and we felt like a little pressure on their offense could help us do that.”

In a 39-37 overtime loss to Shawnee Mission East (7-8, 2-5 Sunflower League), that full-court pressure and disruptive defense worked wonders for the majority of the game. It was the offense for the Firebirds that came up short in the end.

Part of that was not being able to play at the speed the Firebirds wanted, which was more up-tempo.

“There were times (we set the tempo), but not consistently enough,” Wood said. “There were times that they controlled the tempo and were able to slow things down. And ultimately that’s somewhat the difference in the game.”

The first quarter was the most effective, with Free State (6-9, 1-6 Sunflower League) contesting almost every shot and seemingly confusing the Lancers every trip down the court. On the very first possession, Free State junior forward Shannon Clarke narrowly missed a steal. Later in the quarter, she stole the ball from SM East guard Camryn Gossick and blocked a shot from forward Sydney Crane.

Free State and SM East were knotted up at 9-9 at the end of the first quarter, and the Firebirds arguably should have taken the lead. However, there was a mix of tough calls on offense — namely moving screens and travels — with some solid ball movement from SM East.

The Firebirds came out with the same intensity, though, as senior guard Caely Kesten grabbed a steal to start the second quarter. The Firebirds also did their job rebounding and at the free-throw line, with junior guard Evy Harrell and junior forwards Anna McIntyre and Daeci Jaillite-Walker all hitting from the line.

On the other side, SM East finally started to figure things out offensively. Gossick and Crane were able to get a few layups off the press break, and guard Kathleen Stanley finally got outside shots to fall.

SM East held a 22-18 lead at halftime thanks to that run, but Free State was still within striking distance.

“At halftime, that’s what we talked about,” Wood said. “This is going to be a battle and earn it — they’re not going to give it to us. It’s going to feel heavy out there, but you’re going to have to continue to fight.”

Offensively, Free State wasn’t having its best night; midway through the third quarter the Firebirds had made just four shots. Yet, the Firebirds found themselves only down 24-20.

“Offensively, we did not play to our ability,” Wood said. “Part of that was we weren’t able to play at the speed that we wanted to. And we talked about it (after the game) — that happens sometimes in the game of basketball.”

Shortly after that, Clarke hit a 3-pointer. Free State also got a couple of calls in its favor and were able to go into the fourth quarter down 25-23.

Free State eventually tied things up once again with just over two minutes to play. Kesten hit a 3-pointer from the wing, and SM East forward Sarah Bingham made a layup on the other end to tie the game at 31.

And being in that position on an off-night offensively was the Firebirds’ defense.

“It’s just one of those nights offensively where things don’t go well,” Wood said. “But we can continue to guard, defend and rebound, and did that for a lot of the game. Then it gave us a chance to win it.”

Once overtime came, though, SM East regained momentum. A corner 3 from Lancers guard Reese Althouse with just over a minute to play — paired with Free State turnovers — proved to be the difference in the extra period.

“It was one of those games where it was a grinder the whole time,” Wood said. “Things were frustrating, but they continued to battle and it gave us a chance to win it at the end. It just didn’t happen and we’ll move on.”

Free State will next play at home against Shawnee Mission North on Tuesday. Tipoff is set for 5:30 p.m.

Free State (37)

Shannon Clarke 4-14 4-4 14, Caely Kesten 3-13 2-2 9, Anna McIntire 1-3 2-2 4, Daeci Jaillite-Walker 0-3 4-4 4, Joy Nunoo 1-7 0-1 3, Evy Harrell 0-6 3-4 3. Totals 9-46 15-17 37.

Shawnee Mission East (39)

Camryn Gossick 4-9 4-6 12, Reese Althouse 2-9 2-5 8, Kathleen Stanley 3-12 0-0 7, Sydney Crane 2-5 1-4 5, Sarah Bingham 2-2 1-1 5, Anabelle Merchant 1-4 0-0 2, Tess Roman 0-2 0-1 0. Totals 14-43 8-17 39.

Free State 9 9 5 8 (6) — 37

Shawnee Mission East 9 13 3 6 (8) — 39

3-point goals: Free State 4-19 (Clarke, Kesten, Nunoo); Shawnee Mission East 3-16 (Althouse, Stanley). Turnovers: Free State 22, Shawnee Mission East 16.


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