Junction City ends Free State boys basketball’s season, 65-42

JUNCTION CITY — The Free State boys basketball team’s season ended with a 65-42 loss to Junction City on Tuesday night in the first round of the substate playoffs at Junction City High School.

Though the Firebirds (11-10) were within striking distance in the first half and only trailed by five points at halftime, they stalled in the second half and the Bluejays (12-9) pulled away.

“I think we did a good job at points, but we just didn’t put a whole game together,” FSHS coach Sherron Collins said. “When you come to play against a scrappy team like that, you got to play well the whole game.”

At the start of the game, Free State fell into a five-point hole. But the Firebirds managed to make up some of the gap with a small scoring run, making it a one-possession game.

The first quarter was a team effort for the Firebirds, who had five players score two points each. But the Bluejays had a balanced offense, too, and they held a sliver of a lead — 11-10 — after the first eight minutes of play.

In the second frame, the teams were still trading blows. Junction City’s Larkin Turner helped drive his team’s offense, scoring six points in the quarter and for a while extending the Bluejays’ lead out to eight. But the Firebirds weren’t far behind at halftime, trailing 24-19 — thanks in part to a 3-pointer from Zeek Brown as the buzzer sounded.

Brown led the team in scoring and Wesley Edison got three much-needed free throws, but the Firebirds couldn’t find the spark they needed — Collins said the problem was “just the little things that we didn’t do.”

That wasn’t the case for Junction City. The Bluejays wasted no time out of the gate, increasing their lead to nine points early in the frame and forcing Free State to call timeout.

Free State managed to cut the deficit back to five with help from a 3-pointer by Jailen Thompson, but Junction City was in control for the rest of the quarter. The Bluejays outscored FSHS 21-14 in the third and led 45-33 at the start of the fourth.

Junction City kept rolling in the fourth quarter, leading by as many as 15 points at times. They made their free throws down the stretch and scored several late baskets, and just like that, Free State’s postseason was over.

It may have been a rough end to the season, but Collins, in his first year as head coach, took it in stride.

“The biggest takeaway for me this season was to be patient,” Collins said. “I had a great coaching staff with me. It’s always about the kids and it’s always bigger than basketball.”

Junction City (65)

Deontae Baker 1-4 0-0 2, Lovell Autry 3-4 0-1 6, Jackson Austin 2-3 0-0 6, Sylvester Jackson 3-4 0-0 6, Ja’Twaan Williams 1-1 0-0 2, Sheldon Butler-Lawson 5-12 1-2 11, Michael Boganowski 5-10 4-4 14, Larkin Turner 8-11 2-2 18, Thelonius Jones 0-1 0-0 0, Totals 28-50 FG, 7-9 FT, 65.

Free State (42)

Jailen Thompson 3-7 1-1 8, Zeek Brown 5-7 3-5 14, Dre Daniels 1-5 2-2 5, Tay Daniels 2-2 0-0 4, Wesley Edison 1-3 3-6 5, Dash Johnson 2-6 0-0 4, Will Mlynek 1-3 0-0 2, Korbin Dowdell 0-3 0-0 0, Joshua Chen 0-1 0-0 0, Totals: 15-37 FG, 9-14 FT, 42.

Score by quarters

Junction City 11 13 21 20 — 65

Free State 10 9 14 9 — 42

3-point goals: JC 2-5 Jackson Austin (2) ; FS 3-10 Zeek Brown (1), Jailen Thompson (1), Dre Daniels (1). Turnovers: JC 9; FSHS 8. Fouled out: None.


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