After witnessing so many nail-biters this season, William Chrisman girls basketball coach Lindsay Thompson was able to breathe easy in the fourth quarter for a change.
“We've played a bazillion close games against some quality teams,” Thompson said, following her team's 59-28 win over Oak Park, its largest margin of victory of the season. “We went down to the last second against Fort Osage, lost in the final seconds to Liberty and Staley.
“After the game, I told the girls, 'Isn't this 10 times better?' The girls said, 'Yes. This feels awesome.'”
Freshmen Adreon Bell and Bri Burns echoed their coaches' sentiments.
“It was really relaxing to know we didn't have to keep pushing the lead or keep fighting back,” Bell said.
“It was good to see some of the junior varsity players get in there and the seniors cheering them on from the sidelines,” Burns said.
Chrisman (10-12, 5-5 Suburban Middle Seven) was able to enjoy its third blowout victory of the season thanks to a dominant performance on both sides of the ball.
Eleven players reached the scoring column, led junior Makenzie Erickson, who had a game-high 15 points, shooting 4-for-5 from behind the arc. The junior keyed an excellent shooting night for the Bears. They shot 50 percent from the field and a red-hot 13-for-27 from long distance.
“This is the team that has shot it the best, and I have told them that all year,” Thompson said. “Tonight, I told them to fire away and to be confident in their shot. We told Makenzie to start shooting it more. She shoots an incredible 58 percent from the 3-point line. She needs to shoot it more than she does.”
Erickson drained a trio of 3s in the first quarter and Asia Young added another pair of treys as Chrisman took a commanding 22-4 lead. That margin was pushed to 34-12 at halftime with the help of two more long-distance bombs from Young and Rachel Losch.
“We came out with a lot of intensity,” Erickson said. “I just went there and let it fly.”
While the Bears were putting on an offensive clinic, they were fundamentally sound on defense, too. Throwing full-court pressure and timely traps at the Pirates took them out of their rhythm. For the game, Oak Park turned the ball over 15 times, with seven coming in a third quarter where Chrisman led 43-20.
“We wanted to make sure we communicated well on defense and know where No. 24 (Emily Ballard) was at all times,” Burns said. “We were looking all over the floor and made sure we knew where the ball was at all times.”
Knowing they had an insurmountable lead going into the fourth, the Bears were loose. That was apparent when Bell whipped a risky pass from the top of the key, which went past three defenders to an open Erickson who made an easy layup early in the fourth.
“Makenzie is always working hard, so I thought she deserved the pass,” Bell said. “It got through there somehow. I was surprised.”
Bell also grabbed a team-high five steals, while Haley Rodriguez led the Bears with eight rebounds. Young added 10 points.