Free State boys pull off narrow road victory over Shawnee Mission East; girls lose 52-26

photo by: Conner Becker/Journal-World

Free State head boys basketball coach Dwayne Paul during a game on January 11, 2024, at Free State High School.

Prairie Village — The Free State boys basketball team earned a huge victory over Shawnee Mission East on Tuesday night, defeating the Lancers 49-46 at Shawnee Mission East High School.

The Firebirds (6-11) picked up the big win courtesy of a balanced scoring attack and clutch defense down the stretch, as the Lancers (11-6) missed a last-second shot at the buzzer.

“First off, that’s a great win,” FSHS head coach Dwayne Paul said. “That’s a great team we played. I told the guys if you play hard it maximizes our potential and we did that the whole game.”

After falling behind 10-3 early, Free State started to take over from beyond the arc, knocking down four 3s by AJ Eason, Bennett Nagel, Devon Hamilton, and a buzzer-beater from Korbin Dowdell in the first quarter.

The last-second shot from Dowdell gave the Firebirds a slight two-point edge heading into the second, leading 14-12 over the Lancers through eight minutes of play.

After Dash Johnson and Wesley Edison each made 3s of their own, Shawnee Mission East called timeout. The Firebirds’ eight-point lead was their largest of the first half.

Edison added one more 3 to bring Free State’s tally of triples to seven in the first half alone compared to the Lancers’ two.

However, led by four points from Abdoulaye Kante, SM East cut the deficit to just three going into halftime, as the paint presence and smart shooting of the home team gave the Lancers some late momentum heading into the locker room.

“I wanted this one really bad for these guys because they deserved it,” Paul said. “Every senior and player deserved that and everyone came in (and) gave us positive minutes. All I want our guys to do is play hard.”

Hamilton drilled his second 3 of the night to help Free State grow its lead, while Dowdell added four more points to put the Firebirds up by eight late in the third period.

On the defensive side, the Firebirds forced six turnovers to hold Shawnee Mission East to just nine points in the frame, and the Firebirds took a 35-29 lead through three quarters of play, trying to finish the job against a tough Lancers squad.

After Will Beck of SM East scored to trim the lead to four in the fourth, Johnson nailed a deep 3 to bump the Firebirds lead back to seven, which remained the case at the five-minute mark of the final period in regulation.

From there, the Firebirds used their aggressiveness to their advantage and forced numerous fouls, leading to free throws and more opportunities for the Firebirds to stretch the lead.

But the Lancers kept fighting back and eventually cut the lead to two with 90 seconds left following four straight points from Teddy Saylor of SM East.

After a turnover from Free State, another and-1 from Saylor handed Shawnee Mission East the lead with inside of a minute remaining, but a tough basket from Dowdell tied the score back up at 56 with the clock winding down.

“I was telling the guys (in the closing minutes) to get a good shot,” Paul said. “I felt like we spent a lot of time working on three and four minute games in practice. Hats off to Korbin because he made a big shot.”

From there, Edison forced a huge steal on the defensive end, leading to two made free throws from AJ Eason after the SM East foul.

With the Lancers needing a basket to tie, another steal from Edison led to two more Firebird free throws, and despite him missing the second, the clock ran out for the Lancers, leading to the enormous road win for Free State Tuesday night.

Free State now prepares for the City Showdown on Friday night at Free State High School, with tipoff against Lawrence High set for 7 p.m.

“It’ll be a chance for us Friday to win two games in a row,” Paul said. “Win or lose you want to be playing your best basketball of the season going into the playoffs. We played a complete game tonight and we have to keep guarding like we did tonight.”

Free State (49) Devon Hamilton 2-7 1-2 7; Bennett Nagel 1-2 0-0 3; Wesley Edison 3-4 2-3 10; Dash Johnson 2-6 1-2 7; Braden Wilmes 1-1 0-0 2, Hueston Saunders 1-2 0-2 2, AJ Eason 1-4 3-4 6, Korbin Dowdell 5-7 1-2 12. Totals: 16-33 8-15 49.

Shawnee Mission East (46) Carter Brock 0-3 0-0 0; Will Beck 3-5 0-1 6; Teddy Saylor 10-16 3-3 25; Joey Hoffman 0-1 0-0 0; Abdoulaye Kante 3-7 3-3 9, Banks Prendiville 2-2 0-0 4, Walt Jones 0-3 0-0 0, Cole Chinook 1-1 0-0 2. Totals: 19-38 6-7 46.

Score by quarters

Free State 14 9 12 14 — 49

Shawnee Mission East 12 8 9 17 — 46

3-point goals: SMEHS: 2-8 Teddy Saylor (2); FSHS: 9-22 Wesley Edison (2), AJ Eason (1), Dash Johnson (2) Korbin Dowdell (1), Bennett Nagel (1), Devon Hamilton (2); Turnovers: FSHS 14, SMEHS 14. Fouled Out: None.

Girls basketball

The Free State girls basketball team lost to Shawnee Mission East 52-26 Tuesday night at Shawnee Mission East High School despite a tough effort from start-to-finish from the younger Free State squad.

The Lancers (9-8) maintained momentum from start to finish despite a hard effort from the Firebirds (1-17), who forced 10 turnovers on the defensive end and were led by Anniston Clark who scored eight points in all.

“It seems like the past few games we’ve had to go against a player like Abigail Long,” FSHS coach Summer Frantz said. “I thought we did some good things. We’re so close in a number of areas but we still beat ourselves at times.”

The Lancers opened up the game on a 9-0 run thanks to eight early points from Long, but the Firebirds got on the board with a putback from Sarai Preston.

From there however, SM East scored the next six points to finish off the quarter, leading 15-2 after the opening eight minutes.

Chloe Clossen brought some momentum early in the second quarter with Free State’s first 3 of the night as the Firebirds looked to create a spark heading into the halftime locker room.

Even with tight defense all the way through the first half and with a late 3 from Free State’s Addie Fulscher, 13 first-half points from SM East’s Long proved to be the difference, with the Lancers controlling the game 29-8 going into the second half.

Clark scored six points in the first five minutes of the third period, controlling the Firebirds offense with her athleticism and tough shots. She finished the quarter with eight of Free State’s 10 points, but 10 more points from Long stretched the Lancers’ lead heading into the final eight minutes.

Hadley Lonnberg also scored in the quarter to round out Free State’s offense, while also contributing to several defensive stops on the other end to force tough shots for Shawnee Mission East.

In the fourth, Cydnee Price and Clossen knocked down late 3-pointers, and Preston added another basket to finish off the scoring for the visitors, but Shawnee Mission East proceeded to run out the clock to hand themselves a comfortable 52-26 win.

The Firebirds next take on Lawrence High in the City Showdown on Friday night, with tipoff set for 5:30 p.m. at Free State High School.

“We’re just trying to get ready for the environment on Friday,” Frantz said. “We told them to come locked in tomorrow so we can get ready.”

Shawnee Mission East (52) Abigail Long 11-24 0-0 23; Paige Stanfield 4-5 0-0 8; Lauren McGuire 0-3 2-4 2; Ashley Zastrow 2-5 0-0 4; Mary Long 4-4 0-0 8, Fina Kessler 0-4 0-0 0, Coco Reiser 1-2 0-0 2, Anna Holland 1-1 1-2 3, Laine Birch 0-0 2-2 2 Totals: 23-48 5-8 52.

Free State (26) Addie Fulscher 1-5 0-0 3; Hadley Lonnberg 1-1 0-0 2; Anniston Clark 4-9 0-0 8; Chloe Clossen 2-7 0-0 6; Cydnee Price 1-2 0-0 3, Sarai Preston 2-3 0-0 4. Totals: 11-30 0-0 26.

Score by quarters

Shawnee Mission East 15 14 16 7 — 52

Free State 2 6 10 8 — 26

3-point goals: SMEHS: 1-14 Abigail Long (1); FSHS: 4-15 Chloe Clossen (2), Cydnee Price (1), Addie Fulscher (1); Turnovers: FSHS 20, SMEHS 10. Fouled Out: None.


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