High School Sports

They might be free, but aren't so easy

In the Andover boys' season opener, a two-point loss to West, the Trojans made 15 of 27 free throws.

That's 55.6 percent. That's unacceptable.

"It's real frustrating," Andover coach Jason Stucky said."... I know we're good free-throw shooters."

Andover's first win came Tuesday over Mulvane, even though the Trojans made 8 of 17 from the line.

Missing a free throw here or there is understandable. But most coaches aim for their teams to shoot 75 percent from the line.

That's not happening often enough.

In a sampling of eight boys or girls games covered by Eagle reporters Tuesday, five of the 16 teams shot 75 percent or better. South's boys were 12 of 13 (92.3 percent), while the Southeast boys were 10 of 12 (83.3).

Then there's the flip side — four teams shot worse than 50 percent.

One of the worst showings this season for an area team was Andover Central. In the Jaguars' opener, a three-point loss to Wichita Collegiate, they were 11 of 31 (35.5 percent) from the line.

"We got a little bit tight," Andover Central coach Jesse Herrmann said after the game.

Think those misses affected the outcome? Yep. And of those four teams Tuesday night that missed more than half their free throws? All four lost.

Improved shooting at the line starts in practice. Some coaches have specified times to focus solely on free throws, others pull a player at random to shoot a free throw in the middle of a drill or conditioning.

But when poor free-throw shooting gets in a player's head, there's not much to do.

"It's definitely in our heads," Stucky said of his Andover team. "I don't know if it's the fact we shot so poorly (against West) and lost by two and made too big of a deal that now they're overthinking it.

"... If it was me, I'd probably be in there getting a lot of extra reps, but I have a feeling some of our guys are just overthinking it. They're good free-throw shooters, but they're just freaking themselves out mentally."

Scoring machine — Last March, I needed to track down Moundridge boys coach Vance Unrau over spring break to get stats on his son, Trey.

Just a freshman, Trey Unrau received quite a few nominations for the All-Class 2A team. Those were deserved, as he averaged 21.6 points.

Coming into the season, I vowed to keep closer tabs on Unrau.

So here's an update: Despite teams focusing defenses on him, he's playing even better.

Unrau is averaging 29.6 points — he had 33 on Tuesday in a win over Ell-Saline that put Moundridge at 5-0 — even though he's faced everything from man defense to diamond-and-two and box-and-one defenses.

"We knew the junk was going to be out there this year," Vance Unrau said. "You just look at it as an opportunity for other kids to step up."

Trey Unrau's specialty is, no surprise here, shooting. And his dad takes no credit for it.

"I can't say that I've taught him how to shoot," said Vance Unrau, Moundridge's coach for 23 seasons. "It's an uncanny ability, it's a gift, a talent."

Trey Unrau, who played for the Mo-Kan 15s, can hit the three, spot up, finish off the dribble, and create his own shot, Vance Unrau said.

"Playing this summer for Brett McFall, that really got him to understand some of the more intricacies of the game," Unrau said. "He has some intangibles that you don't coach. He has vision and athleticism."

Why yes, it is a big doubleheader — Andover Central boys and girls play at Andover tonight. It's not only a rivalry, it's two of the area's top programs.

Both boys teams are 1-1, while the Andover Central girls are 3-0, Andover 2-0. Andover Central girls are ranked fourth overall, while Andover is 10th.

"Some coaches might play it off, 'it's just another game,' " Stucky said. "But it's not just another game. If we tell the kids that, they'll know we're full of crap."

Andover Central girls coach Stana Jefferson agreed.

"He's right," she said. "This is a great big game. Obviously it's a rival game. The atmosphere between Andover High and Andover Central is always a good atmosphere."

Speaking of big games — The Heights boys will play Columbia (Mo.) Rock Bridge at 6 p.m. Saturday at Avila University in Kansas City, Mo. Maize will play Lee's Summit (Mo.) North at 1:30 p.m.