FSHS boys roll past Shawnee Mission Northwest for 5th consecutive win

photo by: Chance Parker

Free State junior guard Dash Cleveland high fives junior guard Jailen Thompson in the game against Gardner Edgerton. Free State won at Gardner Edgerton Friday, Jan. 8.

Free State’s boys basketball has become familiar with winning, especially since it returned to action after the extended break.

But, in a year that has already featured plenty of victories, Free State head coach Sam Stroh was especially proud of Saturday’s 64-41 win over Shawnee Mission Northwest at FSHS. Thanks to a collective effort on both ends of the floor, the Firebirds have now won five games in a row.

“It was a great team win,” FSHS head coach Sam Stroh said. “Best win of the year. It was the best team we’ve played all year.”

It was the second day of a back-to-back stretch for the Firebirds, but that didn’t seem to matter. The Firebirds (6-1, No. 9 in Class 6A) had more of an offensive rhythm than the night before, when they struggled to hit shots during a 42-33 home win over Olathe Northwest.

Junior Jailen Thompson led Free State with 14 points in the win. Junior Cooper Jackson hit a pair of 3-pointers to finish with 10 points. Senior Kris Daniels, junior Mozae Downing and senior Andrew Piper all finished with 9 points for FSHS.

“I’m proud of our offense in terms of where it was from Friday night to Saturday night,” Stroh said. “I thought the guys were dialed in and focused this morning at shootaround. It’s tough playing back-to-back sometimes, but I think it was probably needed considering offensively we didn’t play that great the night before.”

Most of all, Free State played extremely well on the defensive end for the second night in a row. The group managed to keep Shawnee Mission Northwest’s Damare Smith in check as much as possible. Smith, who averages over 21 points per game, finished with a game-high 23 points.

The Firebirds really did a good job of making sure nobody else had a big performance.

“I thought the key to the game was our defense and limiting the other guys on their team,” Stroh said. “Great team effort defensively.”

Free State has now won all five of its games since returning from an extended break in early January.

“I think the guys know we are a team that is still growing considering we had a long layoff,” Stroh said. “The guys have done a good job of trying to get better every single day the last few practices.”

Free State will have three games in three days next week, starting with a road tilt at Blue Valley West on Thursday. Tipoff is slated for 7 p.m. FSHS will then face Shawnee Mission East at home on Friday and travel to St. James Academy on Saturday.

“We have a challenging stretch ahead of us,” Stroh said. “We will see if we continue to play well and put multiple games together. So it will be a good challenge for us next week.”

SM Northwest 11 4 14 12 — 41

Free State 15 15 12 22 — 64

Free State (64)

Kris Daniels 9, Mozae Downing 9, Dash Cleveland 5, Jailen Thompson 14, Cole Wheeler 6, Andrew Piper 9, Cooper Jackson 10, Hobbs Herlihy 2.


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