Free State boys basketball to forfeit win over Lansing after playing ineligible player

Free State coach Sam Stroh talks to his team during a timeout. Free State defeated Lansing 53-43 in the 810 Varsity Sunflower Showcase on Saturday, Jan. 4.

An ineligible player will cost Free State’s boys basketball team a win on its overall season record.

KSHSAA informed Free State on Monday that it will have to forfeit its 53-43 victory over Lansing, which took place on Saturday, Jan. 4, in the 810 Varsity Sunflower Showcase at Piper High School. With the forfeit, the Firebirds are now 4-2 on the year and remain 2-0 in Sunflower League play.

“I would like to think all the coaches here know I work very, very hard to do the right thing and with integrity,” Free State Athletic Director Amanda Faunce said. “Teaching our kids that we always have to do the right thing, even if it is not always the easiest thing. Sometimes that means it comes with a consequence that isn’t what we would like to see happen.”

Junior Miles Branch, a transfer from Bishop Seabury, played in that game after sitting out all four contests in December. According to the KSHSAA rulebook, however, a student must attend 18 weeks and the first day of school in the 19th week to become eligible to participate.

Faunce, who is in her second year as Free State’s athletic director, didn’t have to deal with a transfer last year. She admitted that the unusual calendar led to this incident. The game took place on the last Saturday of the winter break, while classes resumed at FSHS on Wednesday, Jan. 8.

“I’ve never had this problem because school has always started before we started competing, so we had six extra days in there,” Faunce said. “Again, I take full responsibility for it; I’m not making an excuse. That is the truth. That is exactly what happened. It is obviously a great learning lesson for me.”

FSHS head coach Sam Stroh said that he checked on the status of his player leading up to the matchup with Lansing.

“It’s unfortunate. I felt like I did the right thing in terms of checking with the administration on the status of the player,” Stroh said. “We have a lot of respect for KSHSAA and what it stands for. We weren’t trying to intentionally be in this situation with the status of the student or our team.”

Faunce self-reported the incident to KSHSAA on Monday, Jan. 6, after the eligibility of the transfer was brought to her attention.

“We are a self-reporting, self-policing organization,” KSHSAA Executive Director Bill Faflick said. “Communication is key in this role. They do occur, but there is not an abundance of forfeits that take place.”

Branch, who scored 8 points in his debut with the Firebirds, will be eligible to play moving forward.

“This is not a situation where I made a decision to try and get an advantage,” Faunce said. “When I mapped out my weeks, I just miscalculated. I’m sickened by this.”

Free State travels to Olathe North at 7 p.m. Tuesday.

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