Free State girls can’t overcome 3-point barrage by SM North

photo by: Carter Gaskins

Free State senior Caely Kesten (13) looks to make a play on SM North defender Jada Johnson and Kiara Williams (3) on Tuesday night at FSHS on Feb. 18, 2020.

Shawnee Mission North drilled a dozen 3-pointers, including seven triples in the first half, en route to a 62-52 victory over Free State on Tuesday at FSHS. The Firebirds have now dropped all six of their contests since upsetting Derby in the semifinals of the Lady Firebirds Winter Classic on Jan. 31.

“We knew they had three girls who were big-time threats on the floor,” FSHS head coach Nick Wood said. “We didn’t get a hand out on them, and they continued to make us pay.”

Free State (6-11, 1-8 Sunflower League) has just three games remaining in the regular season, including a clash with Lawrence High on Friday in Allen Fieldhouse.

At least early on, though, Free State’s defense appeared to have the ability to keep the hosts within striking distance.

The Firebirds bothered the Indians (6-10, 2-6 Sunflower League) with their full-court pressure defense, forcing five of their 21 turnovers in the opening period. At one point in the first quarter, FSHS nearly forced a five-second violation. Evy Harrell, Robin Todd and Daeci Jaillite-Walker helped make SM North commit a 10-second violation in the opening period.

At the same time, Free State was pushing the ball in transition early on. Harrell and Anna McIntire each netted a bucket off a fastbreak opportunity. Caely Kesten connected on a pull-up jumper, while Shannon Clarke buried a triple.

“We had really good looks, and our defense was leading to offensive opportunities,” Wood said. “We didn’t take advantage of it. We had every chance to get that game going in our favor, and unfortunately it didn’t happen.”

The Indians still held a 16-7 advantage at the end of the first frame after a pair of 3-pointers in the final minute by junior guard Kiara Williams. And that was the theme for the rest of the night.

Whenever Free State appeared to be making a run, SM North usually answered by hitting a shot from long range. Williams connected on a trio of 3-pointers in the second quarter, while FSHS could only manage 5 points in the second period.

Free State came out energized in the second half, and the ball found the bottom of the net more frequently. Senior Joy Nunoo nailed a pair of 3-pointers, while Clarke and Walker each recorded a pair of baskets as well during a 21-point outburst in the third period.

SM North still had plenty of breathing room entering the final frame after hitting five 3-pointers during a 20-point effort in the third quarter.

“In our minds, we were prepared for it,” Nunoo said. “But (Shawnee Mission North) shot lights out.”

The Indians had four different players hit at least one 3-pointer during a 12-for-20 clip from beyond the arc. In fact, 70.5% of SM North’s successful field goal attempts came via 3-pointers in its second consecutive win.

Williams paced the team with a game-high 23 points, which included a 5 of 8 showing from long range. Sophomore guard Summer Wieneke, who entered the game averaging 11.5 points per contest, buried five triples to finish with 16 points. Jada Johnson also joined them in double figures with 14 points.

Clarke led the Firebirds, scoring 20 points on a 9 of 18 effort from the floor. Clarke fell hard to the floor on a layup at the 6:29 mark in the final period, but returned with 3:11 left to play.

Free State pulled within single digits in the final minute, but couldn’t complete the comeback.

“We just have to get better,” Nunoo said. “We have so much more to give, and Friday is our chance to show the city who we are.”

Free State will face Lawrence at 6:30 p.m. Friday at Allen Fieldhouse.

SM North (62)

Summer Wieneke 5-10 1-2 16, Kiara Williams 7-13 4-4 23, Jada Johnson 3-14 7-7 14, Keagan Stiers 1-1 0-1 3, Madison Koller 1-2 4-7 6. Totals: 17-40 16-21 62.

Free State (52)

Evy Harell 2-14 2-2 6, Shannon Clarke 9-18 0-0 20, Daeci Jaillite-Walker 2-3 0-0 4, Caely Kesten 3-7 5-7 11, Joy Nunoo 2-7 0-0 6, Anna McIntire 2-2 0-0 4, Mackenzie Moore 0-0 0-0 0, Robin Todd 0-3 1-2 1. Totals: 20-54 8-11 52.

SM North 16 13 20 13 — 62

Free State 9 5 21 17 — 52

3-point goals: SMN 12-20 (Wieneke 5, Williams 5, Johnson, Stiers); FS 4-18 (Clarke, Nunoo). Turnovers: SMN 21; FS 16. Fouled out: None.


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