Special to The Gardner News
Poor shooting from the field and the charity stripe Friday night cost the Gardner-Edgerton High School girls’ basketball squad, as the host Lady Blazers lost to Lawrence Free State 52-44. The loss dropped GEHS to 3-2 in the Sunflower League and 6-3 overall.
The beginning of the first quarter gave no clues to the offensive woes that lay ahead for the Lady Blazers. With a balanced attack, the Lady Blazers jumped out to a 7-0 lead just over two minutes into the game. After a Firebird timeout, Free State answered with a 14-3 run to close out the quarter with a 4-point lead.
GEHS senior point guard Kynli Nelson opened the second frame with three quick points to close the gap to one point at 14-13 just over a minute into the period, but Free State quickly widened the gap and took a 7-point lead into halftime.
After the game, GEHS head coach Justin Mayer expressed his concerns over the Blazers’ defense that allowed the Firebirds to keep Gardner-Edgerton at arms’ length most of the game. “Defense was what was frustrating for me,” Mayer said. “I thought we were lackadaisical on that end of the floor. Help-recover was not good. We got stuck standing around watching. We just didn’t have kids engaged the entire time they were out there.”
The Blazers could never get closer than within 4 points in the third and fourth quarters, when the offensive woes began to spread like a virus. GEHS missed several close range shots and layups in the game’s final 16 minutes. Gardner-Edgerton missed another chance to get closer to the Firebirds when GEHS connected only 15 of 30 attempts free throws. Had the Blazers connected on just two thirds of their attempts, they might have changed the complexion of the game in its final minute.
Outside the Lady Blazer locker room, Mayer credited the Firebird defense with a game plan that kept GEHS guessing. “I think Free State did a nice job defensively,” stated Mayer. “They were switching back and forth, man-zone. It kept us off balance offensively.”
Of the free throw woes, Mayer was a little more nonplussed. “We preach 60 percent or better on our free throws in practice and we hit it every day,” said the Blazer head coach. “It’s crazy.”
Nelson led GEHS in scoring on the night with 17 points. Senior forward Skyler Washington notched 12 points, senior guard Taylor Carpenter contributed 5, junior guard Kelby Wilson and freshman guard Sofia Semon each had 4, while post Madyson Beasley recorded 2 points.