During practice, St. Mary’s Colgan girls basketball head coach Abby Farabi has been putting her girls through conditioning drills. Then, when her girls are exhausted, she lines them up for free throws. After that, she repeats the process.
“I told them we’re doing this, because free throws will win games. It did tonight,” Farabi said after her team beat Frontenac 53-48 in overtime. The Panthers shot 23-31 from the charity stripe.
Frontenac, which went 21-2 last year and lost only once during the regular season, was left wondering what went wrong after a hot start was wasted and fouls gave the Panthers the opportunity to win, which they took.
“That was one of the best free throw shooting performances I’ve ever seen. And we didn’t hit a lot of our free throws. We also missed a ton of shots tonight,” said Frontenac head coach Jeremy Rakes. “... Our defense was lacking tonight. [Colgan] was getting a ton of open looks. Our rotation was not what it needed to be.”
Frontenac started the game on fire, opening up an 11-0 lead thanks to a strong effort by junior Bailey Flora and senior Amanda Cicero. At the end of the first quarter, it appeared the Raiders were going to take control, owning a 17-8 lead.
But Colgan rallied in the second quarter, as Frontenac fouls —and Panther free throws — narrowed the lead to 18-16.
Again it appeared Frontenac would return to form from last year, as Jennifer Long found Cicero for a three-pointer, then Colgan turned the ball over on a backcourt violation. As if that swing wasn’t enough, the whole sequence repeated moments later, with Long finding Cicero again and Colgan turning the ball over again. That would be the last time Cicero would score, as she finished with eight points, all in the first half.
But Colgan wouldn’t go away, using free throws and a three-pointer by Taylor Bolinger to cut the Frontenac advantage to 27-24 at halftime. Bolinger scored nine of her 12 points in the first half to keep Colgan in the game.
The Panthers never looked back in the third quarter, going on a 7-0 run to take the lead. The Panthers took advantage of five trips to the free-throw line, hitting eight of 10 to earn a five-point lead just after the end of the third quarter.
In the fourth quarter, it was Frontenac taking advantage of Colgan fouls. Thanks to a series of Colgan fouls in the fourth and a timely three-pointer by Haley Wilson, Frontenac was back in the lead, 45-43 with 53.9 seconds left.
A Frontenac foul and two calm free throws by Nichole Kolarik, who ended with 11 points, tied the game at 45.
In overtime, it was almost all Colgan, and almost all by free throws. Six of the Panthers’ eight points in overtime were on free throws — the only points that weren’t were Katie Kolarik getting a rebound on her own free-throw miss and scoring from the left side.
Page 2 of 3 - Frontenac senior Lindsey Gorham did not play in the game while recovering from an illness.
“She’s had an amazing three weeks of practice. She’s a team captain,” Rakes said. “It hurt our rotation. She just got out of the hospital today. I think that did hurt... We’re not used to losing. We’re now on a two-game losing streak counting last year and this year. We’ve got some things to correct. It doesn’t get any easier with Labette County coming next week.”
Colgan, 1-0, will play Jasper, Mo., on Tuesday.
Colgan 66, Frontenac 54
Frontenac’s two leading returning starters did not play against St. Mary’s Colgan. Colgan’s leading returning scorer did.
While Frontenac’s Blake Barto and Devon Keith sat with injuries, Colgan’s Dyson Dechant rolled to 27 points in a 66-54 win on the road.
“I have to be pleased with the effort of a lot of kids,” said Colgan boys basketball head coach Wayne Cichon. “A lot of them came through and beat a solid Frontenac team. Luke Marquardt was on the bench in foul trouble most of the game. I was pleased with the play of the backups.”
The game turned several times in the pivotal second quarter.
After Frontenac had a 14-13 lead at the end of the first quarter, Colgan opened on a 10-0 run fueled by two Dechant steals and five points. But Frontenac countered, hitting a pair of threes in a 9-2 run of their own that narrowed the Colgan lead to 25-23. But Colgan countered that run with an 11-2 run of their own. Cichon said it was a matter of exhaustion.
“I think it was tiredness. It really was. Both teams were getting tired, and each made a run when the other team had tired kids on the floor. We got fresh legs on the floor, and stopped their run and started one of our own. I felt confident in the kids, and I knew they wouldn’t lose their composure. They also did a nice job at the free-throw line down the stretch,” Cichon said.
The Colgan lead of about 10 lasted for much of the game. Frontenac did put a little bit of a scare into Colgan, twice getting within five points in the fourth quarter. But each time, Colgan answered.
Dechant hit five free throws down the stretch to ice the game.
“We came up with most of the 50-50 balls and long rebounds,” Cichon said. “We ran them down more. We worked hard. We have good, hard-working kids. The kids got after it.”
Cichon particularly noted the efforts of C.J. Russell, Christian Cedeño and Tyler Commons, who combined for 19 points.
Page 3 of 3 - Frontenac head coach Doug Barto said that although the Raiders knew they needed to stop Dechant, they couldn’t get it done.
“We knew going in that we needed to stop him. He got started a little early. We had a couple missed assignments. He’s a good player. There were some breakdowns, like you have in the first game. With two teams like this, that was the difference.”
Frontenac (0-1) will play Labette County on Tuesday, while Colgan (1-0) will play Jasper, Mo.