Caely Kesten sets multiple assist records; FSHS girls knock off Gardner-Edgerton

photo by: Shane Jackson

Free State senior Caely Kesten shows off her basketball for breaking career record for assists after a win over Gardner-Edgerton Friday night at FSHS on Feb. 28, 2020.

It was an ending that couldn’t have been scripted any better for Free State senior Caely Kesten.

On a night where she was honored for being the program’s all-time assist leader, Kesten broke her own single-game record for dimes. Kesten dished out 13 assists in a 60-38 win over Gardner Edgerton on Friday night at FSHS in the regular-season finale.

“It was pretty amazing,” Free State coach Nick Wood said. “What’s so great about an assist record is that it is a team deal. Your teammates have to make plays for you, and her teammates did that tonight. It was an awesome way to end our home season.”

The monumental dime came in the final minutes of a lopsided win.

Kesten, a Northwest Missouri State signee, fired a pass to junior Shannon Clarke near the top of the key. Clarke, who paced Free State with 33 points in the win, drilled the 3-pointer with zero hesitation. Clarke also set the single-game record for made field goals on a 14-for-17 effort from the floor.

FSHS (8-12, 3-9 Sunflower League) immediately called a timeout, while Kesten and Clarke hugged in celebration. The 13 assists was one more than Kesten’s previous personal-best mark, which she accomplished on Jan. 17, 2019.

Afterward, Kesten was recognized for etching her name in the career books. With the postseason still left to play, Kesten has 219 assists in her career. The previous career record for assists was 174, which was set by two different Firebirds.

Kesten received a ball for her career accolade and she took a few moments to speak to the crowd. The theme of her speech was that she couldn’t have done it without her teammates.

“Everybody said the keys to the game were energy and togetherness,” Kesten said. “Who can get assists if you aren’t playing together? I put all my faith into my teammates, and they performed for me. Everything was just perfect.”

photo by: Shane Jackson

Free State senior Caely Kesten (13) and junior Shannon Clarke (3) hug after Kesten broke the single-game assist record for the Firebirds Friday night at FSHS on Feb. 28, 2020.

The rest of the Free State team embraced that mindset en route to its second win in the last three games. Sharing the rock was the name of the game for the Firebirds, who led Gardner Edgerton (5-15, 2-10) by double digits over the final three quarters.

An all senior starting lineup of Kesten, Mackenzie Moore, Raven Gueary, Joy Nunoo and Nysha McVay set the tone in the first two minutes of the contest. While the extra passes didn’t initially turn into results, the baskets started to come when the team’s usual starters checked into the game.

FSHS junior Evy Harrell dished a dime to Clarke at the 5:44 mark, giving the hosts an early 4-2 advantage. After the Trailblazers eventually evened the score at 6-6, the Firebirds responded with a 13-3 run over the final four-plus minutes of the first quarter.

The extra pass didn’t always lead to baskets, but it put the Firebirds in favorable positions all night. Junior Daeci Jaillite-Walker got frequent trips to the charity stripe off nice passes from her teammates. Junior Anna McIntire threaded a pass to Kesten, who earned a trip to the line as well.

Kesten, of course, was responsible for a bulk of Free State’s assists. She directed the offense all night and made the right play on inbound sets. Robin Todd was even credited with an assist on an early bucket by Clarke.

All of it allowed Free State to jump out to a 19-9 lead in the first quarter. The Firebirds had a 36-20 advantage by the intermission, and the game was never really in doubt after that.

“When we share the basketball and play with that attack mindset, we are a lot of fun to watch,” Wood said. “Tonight, they really played that way and they played together. Hopefully, that is something we can build on.”

photo by: Shane Jackson

Free State senior Caely Kesten (13) is honored for being the program’s all-time career assist leader after defeating Gardner-Edgerton Friday night at FSHS on Feb. 28, 2020.

Free State’s substate seeding will be announced on Saturday.

Gardner Edgerton (38)

Kaelin Platt 2-5 0-0 4, Sadie Watkins 1-4 1-2 3, Mia Vallery 1-8 1-4 3, Kaylah Newman 0-6 4-4 6, Alyx VanRheen 3-5 0-0 6, Abri Leiker 1-3 3-4 5, Lauren Havlik 0-2 0-0 0, Trinity Taylor 1-1 1-2 3, Sariyah Williams 2-2 0-0 4. Totals: 12-38 14-20 38.

Free State (60)

Mackenzie Moore 1-3 0-0 3, Raven Guarty 0-0 0-0 0. Caely Kesten 1-6 2-4 4, Joy Nunoo 1-3 2-2 5, Nysha McVay 0-3 0-0 0, Shannon Clarke 14-17 2-3 33, Daeci Jaillite-Walker 1-8 5-6 8, Evy Harrell 2-5 1-3 5, Robin Todd 1-3 0-0 2. Totals: 21-47 12-18 60.

Gardner 9 11 6 12 — 38

Free State 19 17 12 12 — 60

3-point goals: GE 0-7; FS 6-14 (Moore, Nunoo, Walker, Clarke 3). Turnovers: GE 22; FS 15. Fouled out: Walker, Free State.


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