FREEMAN-For the last five years, Freeman High School has been knocking on the door of the Class B girls basketball state tournament. This year, the Flyers want to kick that door in.
Freeman racked up 81 wins during the five-year stretch prior to this season, but it lost in the regional finals in four of the last five seasons, while being knocked out in the district finals in another. Moreover, the Flyers lost three of those games by four points or less and two in overtime, including a double-overtime loss to Sully Buttes last year.
This season Freeman is on a mission to vanquish past hiccups, posting a 14-3 record that has the Flyers in the top spot of the Region 5B standings heading into today's game at No.1 Ethan.
"Last year was especially hard for all of us," Freeman senior Hannah Eberts said. "... It was like we were so close. ... We have a lot of experience under our belt and I think we all know that. We all understand and we're all prepared to give all of our hearts this year."
Freeman has four seniors on the roster that have been a part of four of those season-ending losses and three of them-Eberts, Josie Fuhrmann and Dayna Roth-are currently key contributors to a balanced scoring attack that features four players hovering near double figures.
Junior forward Emily Miller leads the team with 12.9 points per game, but the senior trio of Fuhrmann, Eberts and Roth each average between 8.6 and 10 points per game, giving the Flyers a lot of options and experience on offense.
"I think we're a really unselfish team," Fuhrmann said. "None of us are focused on, 'Oh, I need to get points.' We just have one goal and that's to win the game, no matter who scores the points or what happens."
While experience and balance drive the offense, Freeman's wins and losses hinge on the success of the defense.
The man-to-man defense deployed by head coach Curtis Sage is the focal point of each practice and it has been stifling, surrendering 37.3 points per game this season. The Flyers surrendered more than 45 points twice this season.
"We have to hold opponents under 50 every game," Sage said. "That's our goal every single game, and if we do that, we have a pretty good chance of winning those games. If we don't, those are the teams we're going to struggle against."
Freeman currently has six victories against teams with double-digit wins, setting the stage for another crack at advancing to its first state tournament since 2010.
"It's been my dream-ever since I've been playing basketball-to go to state," Eberts said. "To just be able to go and provide that for our younger kids who are sitting on the bench, I think, would be the best thing on earth for them-to just make that something tangible."