OLATHE — As the Free State girls basketball team took a four-point lead into halftime against Blue Valley Northwest on Thursday in the consolation semifinals of Lady Hawks Basketball Classic, Firebirds coach Ted Juneau saw some encouraging things from his squad.
After the Huskies went on a 7-0 run early in the second quarter, the Firebirds responded with a 5-0 spurt for the final 3:22 of the half. The Huskies got rolling again in the third quarter, though, and the Firebirds never were able to recover in a 43-31 loss.
"We've been asking people to do things that they may not necessarily be able to do at this point, but you know, we're up at half and it's the same old thing. We came down and make about four, five or six empty possessions," Juneau said after his squad fell to 0-3 on the season. "It's not because we take good shots and miss. We never get the shots. We turn it over. We throw it away. We take bad shots. And then suddenly we're down 10, 12 points. It's like, 'All right, we'll trade baskets now.' You can't win basketball games that way."
The Huskies (1-2) went on a 10-0 run to begin the second half, as they turned a 17-13 deficit to a 23-17 lead. Free State freshman Shannon Clarke briefly snapped the Firebirds' skid with the team's first bucket of the quarter at the 3:02, but BV Northwest senior Bridget Harrison answered right back on the following possession with her second 3-pointer of the quarter.
Clarke and Evy Harrell are both freshmen that have both been plugged in right away. With Erin Cushing being the only senior on the team, Juneau realizes that he has one of the youngest squads in the state and knows he's asking a lot of the underclassmen to step up.
While the Firebirds are still searching for their first win going into today's seventh-place game against Blue Valley Southwest, Juneau has continued to challenge his players to overcome adversity.
"I told them today that I'm not disappointed in their effort. The thing I don't want is for them to feel comfortable being beat," Juneau said. "We can't leave the locker room just being comfortable saying, 'Oh well.'"
"Today we played two freshmen and two sophomore, a junior and one senior, so we're pretty young. Our sophomore point guard (CK Kesten) is not playing. So we're going to be a young team, but that's not an excuse. We've just got to gel and be able to play at this level. They were playing middle school basketball last year and now they're playing 6A varsity basketball. That's a big jump."
Juneau said that Kesten still remains week-to-week and didn't have a definite idea of when she would be able to return to action.
Junior Sam Lawrence stepped up to lead the Firebirds with 10 points, while Clarke followed with eight. Lawrence knocked down two free throws to pull the Firebirds within four early in the fourth quarter, but the Huskies weren't fazed. Blue Valley Northwest rattled off a 15-2 run to put the Firebirds away.
Despite the loss, Juneau did feel like the Firebirds improved in a number of areas compared to their first two games.
"I know we're going to get better and we are getting a little better. That's the thing that just frustrates me," Juneau said. "We're trying hard to get people some rest early and hopefully maybe that was the reason. I don't have all the answers right now."
The Firebirds will take on BV Southwest at 3:30 p.m. today.
FREE STATE (31)
Erin McClorey 0-2 0-0 0, Sam Lawrence 3-12 3-4 10, Evy Harrell 0-0 0-0 0, Shannon Clarke 3-7 2-4 8, Haley Hippe 1-4 2-2 4, Mayela Edwards 0-2 0-0 0, Erin Cushing 0-2 1-3 1, Liliana Keathly 0-0 0-0 0, Joy Nunoo 1-2 1-2 3, LJ Jones 2-2 0-0 5, Caroline Patton 0-0 0-0 0, Rose Piakowski 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 10-33 9-15 31.
BV NORTHWEST (43)
Cate McClain 0-3 0-0 0, Veronica Spillman 1-3 0-0 3, Grace Coble 2-2 0-0 4, Bridget Harrison 4-11 0-0 10, Haley Shin 0-2 1-2 1, Sarah Martin 1-4 0-0 3, Evy Bail 5-7 2-4 12, Kate Kaufman 3-9 1-6 10, Madison Gerard 0-1 0-1 0. Totals 16-42 4-13 43.
Free State 10 7 3 11 — 31
BV Northwest 6 7 13 17 — 43
3-point goals: FS 3-12 (Lawrence 2, Jones); BVNW 7-20 (Kaufman 3, Harrison 2, Martin, Spillman). Fouled out: None. Turnovers: FS 19, BVNW 13.