Daniels’ steal in final seconds seals Free State’s 47-46 road win

photo by: Contributed photo

Free State senior guard Kris Daniels watches Liberty junior guard Luke Stubbs bring the ball up the court during a basketball game Saturday, Dec. 5 at Liberty High School in Liberty, Mo. (Photo courtesy of Mac Moore of the Courier Tribune)

It took a defensive stop with the game on the line, but Free State High’s boys basketball team escaped Blue Valley West with a 47-46 victory Thursday night.

The Jaguars, after rallying back in the fourth quarter, had the ball with the clock winding down. But before they could get off a potential go-ahead shot, Firebirds senior guard Kris Daniels shot the gap on a pass and turned a deflection in the paint into a game-sealing steal.

“If the game would’ve went another minute or two we probably would’ve lost,” FSHS coach Sam Stroh said after the Firebirds’ sixth consecutive victory.

The No. 5-ranked team in Class 6A, Free State (7-1) led 41-31 after three quarters before hitting a rut. The visitors only made two field goals in the final eight minutes and missed a free throw on the front end of a one-and-one twice in the final minutes.

“The momentum was definitely on (the Jags’) side and we just couldn’t find a way to make a free throw and limit them to one shot or not making a shot,” Stroh said.

The coach couldn’t help but feel fortunate that FSHS found a way to win. And Stroh said the Firebirds had a junior backup guard to thank for the outcome.

“Isaac Gonzalez is probably the reason we won the game,” Stroh said. “He hit some big shots for us in the second half.”

Gonzales, who produced all seven of his bench points in the second half, knocked down two critical 3-pointers, one of them during a fourth quarter that BVW won, 15-6.

Some injuries and illnesses, Stroh noted, kept Gonzales from playing much earlier in the year, and he missed some games for FSHS before returning to the lineup after playing well in practices.

“(Gonzales) came in and hit some big shots for us,” Stroh said, “and bailed our guys that play above him out.”

Daniels and Andrew Piper led Free State with 10 points apiece. Daniels made a 3-pointer in the fourth quarter that gave FSHS a four-point advantage late, before his clutch steal.

Overall, Stroh said, the Firebirds were dogged by foul trouble and some “ugly” turnovers in the narrow victory.

“Just kind of a sloppy game, which we’ve done from time to time,” he said. “But somehow we’ve figured out a way to win those games, which I guess is a good thing. But we definitely need to clean some things up moving forward.”

This was the first of three games in three days for Free State, which will host Shawnee Mission East tonight and travel to St. James Academy on Saturday.

“(Thursday) offensively it wasn’t there for us in terms of execution and ball handling and decision making,” Stroh said. “Hopefully we can clean our stuff up, because Shawnee Mission East has got some dudes inside that will give us fits.”

Free State 47, Blue Valley West 46

Free State (47)

Kris Daniels 10, Mozae Downing 0, Dash Cleveland 4, Jailen Thompson 3, Cole Wheeler 6, Isaac Gonzales 7, Andrew Piper 10, Cooper Jackson 7, Hobbs Herlihy 0.

BV West (46)

Quentin Robertson 0, Sam Ungashick 9, Jaudon Mandley 0, Jackson Lovich 5, Jack Spencer 6, Gage Roach 12, Jack Ratigan 14.

FSHS 8 17 16 6 — 47

BVW 10 13 8 15 — 46

Three-point goals: FSHS 7 (Gonzales 2, Daniels 2, Wheeler 2, Jackson); BVW 5 (Roach 3, Spencer, Lovich). Fouled out: None.


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