FSHS girls fall in early hole during first game back in 56-41 loss to Gardner Edgerton

photo by: Carter Gaskins

Free State's Daeci Walker (11) tries to get around defense from Gardner Edgerton during a game against Gardner Edgerton Friday night at FSHS on Jan. 8, 2021.

It had been exactly one month since the Free State girls basketball team had played in a competitive game, and that was never more obvious than the first five minutes of 56-41 loss to Gardner Edgerton Friday night at FSHS.

The Firebirds, who hadn’t played since their narrow win over Shawnee Heights on Dec. 8 because of a quarantine before winter break, didn’t hit their first shot from the floor until the 3:03 mark of the opening period. But the game was already out of hand by then, as Gardner Edgerton scored 20 unanswered points out of the gate.

“I think you could tell out there that it had been a month,” first-year FSHS head coach Chris Linner said. “I don’t want to make any excuses or anything like that. I think you definitely saw there was some difference out there because of the extended break.”

Nearly everything went against the Firebirds (1-2) from the start. They rarely even got a shot off due to a suffocating defensive effort by the Trailblazers. FSHS coughed up seven turnovers in the first quarter alone, and went 2-for-9 from the floor during those opening eight minutes.

Gardner Edgerton faced guarded FSHS senior Shannon Clarke, who is committed to the Naval Academy, and threw a help defender on Clarke when she attempted to make a move off the bounce. It played a part in Clarke missing all three of her attempts from the floor in the opening period.

“It looked like any time she put her head down that they would send somebody,” Linner said. “We tried to get her open with some rub action, but they would just come right off it. They were sending someone (at her) any time she put the ball on the floor past halfcourt. That’s tough.”

Clarke appeared to sustain an injury to her shoulder late in the first quarter, which sidelined her to start the second period as well. The Firebirds were also without senior Evy Harrell, who was on crunches and supporting her team from the bench.

All of it, including the month-long layoff, led to a sluggish start by the hosts. A three-pointer from the top of the key by senior guard Thayu Kimori was Free State’s first points of the night after spotting Gardner Edgerton a 20-0 advantage.

The only other basket by the Firebirds in the opening period came via a layup by junior Kenzie Marcum on an assist by Clarke.

On the other end, the Trailblazers (3-2) rarely seemed to miss their field goal attempts in the first quarter. Gardner Edgerton went 10-for-19 from the floor across that eight-minute stretch, which included four triples by the visitors.

Gardner Edgerton grabbed a 25-5 lead after the first frame.

“It felt bigger than I think it was,” Linner said of the early hole. “It was a long game and it happened real quickly. To get hit in the mouth like that, it takes a tough team to get out of that hole.”

It wasn’t as lopsided after that, though most of the damage had been done. The Firebirds actually posted a 11-7 advantage in the second quarter, and had some positive moments on both ends of the floor.

Clarke checked back in the game at the 5:32 mark in the second quarter after exiting with 44.5 seconds left in the opening period. Even with the injury, Clarke was more assertive after returning to the game.

Clarke was driving hard to the rim, and finishing through contact and plenty of double-team attempts. She still managed to finish with a team-high 23 points on 9-of-17 shooting.

On the defensive end, seniors Daeci Walker and Anna McIntire both were diving for loose balls and playing with high energy for the remainder of the night. Sophomore Reese Hulcher recorded an impressive block in transition in the third period as well.

The physical play by the entire team on the defensive end, along with the scoring effort from Clarke, was enough for FSHS to make things interesting down the stretch. Free State eventually cut the deficit to 12 with 5:01 left to play.

Gardner Edgerton was able to hang on in the end, as the 20-point hole proved to be too much to overcome for Free State. But Linner was proud of his team’s resilience, especially since it occurred without its four-year starting guard.

“We were missing our senior leader in Evy Harrell,” Linner said. “Missing a point guard is tough. We could have easily given up. (We) had a lot of kids that had chances in this game who hadn’t necessarily had a chance to play.”

Free State will travel to Olathe North at 7 p.m. Tuesday.

“Although we got punched in the mouth there early, there is some stuff to carry over,” Linner said. “There is some stuff to be happy about.”

Gardner-Edgerton (56)

Kaelin Platt 2-7 1-2 6, Sofia Semon 7-19 2-4 19, Aaliyah Moss 2-4 0-0 4, Kiersten Markos 4-8 2-5 10, Saige Lickteig 3-3 0-2 7, Kaylah Newman 0-2 0-0 0, Lauren Havlik 0-2 0-1 0, Abri Leiker 1-3 2-2 4, Brenley Cunningham 0-0 1-2 1, Mara Smith 2-2 0-0 4, Sariyah Williams 0-0 1-2 1. Totals: 21-50 FG 9-20 FT 56 points.

Free State (41)

Shannon Clarke 9-17 4-6 23, Robin Todd 0-2 0-0 0, Daeci Walker 2-8 2-4 6, Thayu Kimori 1-6 0-0 5, Anna McIntire 1-2 2-3 4, Kenzie Marcum 1-4 1-2 3. Totals: 15-39 FG 9-15 FT 41 points.

Gardner Edgerton 25 7 15 9 — 56

Free State 5 11 12 13 — 41

3-point goals: GE 5-16 (Semon 3, Platt, Lickteig); FSHS 2-11 (Clarke, Kimori). Turnovers: GE 5; FSHS 24. Fouled out: McIntire, FS.


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