An 18-point deficit with under four minutes to play in Saturday’s game against Olathe West prompted Free State girls basketball coach Ted Juneau to burn one of his timeouts.
Whatever his message inside the huddle was, his team responded.
It was just a little too late in the Firebirds' 64-56 loss at FSHS in the seventh-place game of the Firebird Winter Classic. Free State finished the game on a 17-7 run.
“They never quit,” Juneau said. “Even with about 30, 40 seconds to go, I think we felt like we still had a chance to win.”
In the final 30 seconds, Free State’s Shannon Clarke scored on a layup and was fouled on the play. Clarke then made her free throw. On the Firebirds’ next possession, Sam Lawrence made a layup to cut the score to 61-56 with seven seconds left.
But Olathe West (6-6) would put the game out of reach with a free throw and a buzzer-beating layup from Anaiya Uhde.
Despite the loss, Juneau was pleased with the 26-point, fourth-quarter effort he saw from his team.
“(Our effort) has never been a question in my mind today or anytime we play,” Juneau said. “Sometimes we just don’t make real smart decisions and then we get ourselves in situations where we just can’t put the ball in the hole.”
Free State (1-11) went into halftime down 29-19 and made only 7 of 29 first-half shots.
But the Firebird offense picked up in the second half and was led by Clarke, who scored all 13 of her points after the intermission.
“Earlier in the season, that’s the kind of performance we’ve had from her,” Juneau said. “She’s been in a little bit of a slump, but she goes to the glass as well as anybody. She just has to have the confidence to go do that.”
Clarke shot an efficient 6 of 12 from the floor in the game.
“I was real pleased with her effort offensively, and on the rebounding side of the ball, too,” Juneau said.
Defensively, Juneau said he is hoping his team can continue to see improvement, especially with help-side defense.
Olathe West’s Ayiana Uhde scored many of her 14 points near the rim, which helped open the floor for her teammates. The Owls made eight 3-pointers.
“When we have people posting us up a lot, if we don’t do a good job of help-side defense we’re in trouble,” Juneau said. “When we break down (defensively), that’s what happens.”
Free State will next travel to play Olathe East. Tipoff is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Tuesday.
Free State (56)
Sam Lawrence 4-12 4-6 17, Evynn Harrell 0-4 1-2 1, Caely Kesten 3-8 0-0 7, Shannon Clarke 6-12 1-5 13, Haley Hippe 3-6 1-4 7, Mayela Edwards 3-8 0-0 7, Erin Cushing 0-2 2-3 2, Liliana Keathley 0-2 0-0 0, Joy Nunoo 1-5 0-0 2. Totals 20-59 9-20 56.
Olathe West (64)
Anaiya Uhde 6-11 0-1 15, Mackenzie Hart 3-7 3-5 10, Allysa Moore 2-4 0-0 6, Michelle Anderson 2-4 2-2 6, Bailey Collar 3-8 3-7 11, Ayiana Uhde 5-8 4-6 14, Moriah Goracke 1-3 0-1 2. Totals 22-45 12-22 64.
Free State 12 7 11 26 — 56
Olathe West 14 15 11 24 — 64
3-point goals: Free State 5-16 (Lawrence 3, Keston, Edwards); Olathe West 8-16 (Anaiya Uhde 3, Collar 2, Moore 2, Hart). Fouled out: Hippe. Turnovers: Free State 14, Olathe West 14.