KEARNEY, Mo. – Rebecca Jonas was not perfect – but she was close.
“She did miss those two free throws,” Truman girls basketball coach Steve Cassity quipped after Jonas scored 24 points and grabbed 14 rebounds to lead the Patriots to a 51-39 Class 5 District 14 semifinal win over Noland Road rival William Chrisman Tuesday night at Kearney High School. “She's running (at practice) tomorrow.”
The comment was made within earshot of Jonas, who nodded in agreement.
“I missed two free throws and a 3-point shot – and I don't even know why I shot a 3-pointer,” said Jonas, was a perfect 12 of 12 inside the arc and 12 of 13 overall, to lead the 24-1 Patriots to the 6 p.m. championship game Friday night against Kearney (24-2, a 54-44 winner over Liberty) – the squad that spoiled the Patriots’ undefeated run in 2012-13.
“We don't care who we play Friday,” Jonas said. “We're just happy we're still playing.”
The same can't be said for a gallant William Chrisman squad that trailed by just six points until the final two minutes, when sophomore Bri Savidge hit two free throws and a layup to finally give the Pats some breathing room.
“We did not have an answer for Becca Jonas tonight,” said Bears coach Lindsay Thompson, following an emotional post-game locker room talk with her team that finished 12-14. “I saw Becca in the fall league and told her face to face how proud I was of her, and how much she had improved over the past few years. When she starts hitting that 12- to 15-foot jumper, well, it's not fair.”
Jonas used her 6-foot-2 frame to dominate in the paint, scoring eight points in the first quarter, 10 in the third and six in the fourth. She did not score in the second period. That's because she picked up her second foul at 6:20 and sat next to Cassity on the Truman bench until halftime.
“We couldn't afford for Becca to get her third foul in the first half,” Cassity said. “I have so much faith and confidence in our bench, and we maintained our lead at the half and Becca took the game over in the second half.”
Truman led 17-14 at halftime in a slow-paced, methodical game that helped the Bears stay within shouting distance. The second half turned into a track meet as the Bears scored 17 and the Patriots 18 in the third period.
Bears guard Mackenzie Erikson hit a 3-pointer to begin the second half to knot the score at 17-all, but once again, the Bears did not have an answer for Jonas, who drained a 15-foot jumper as the buzzer sounded to give the Patriots a 35-31 lead going into the final quarter.
“We tried so hard to keep up with them, but we just couldn't stop Becca,” Erikson said. “They're a great team, and we thought we had a chance to win tonight, but we had to play better than we did. Give them credit.”
In the closing two minutes, Savidge delivered for the Patriots and finished with nine points and nine boards.
“Bri is just an amazing athlete, and she is so young, who knows how good she is going to be,” Cassity said. “She's been a double-double player most of the season. She gets the tough rebounds and always seems to score big points. Those points at the end were huge.”
“I was really impressed with Chrisman,” Savidge said. “They played us hard, and you could tell the game meant a lot to both teams. Give them a lot of credit, we had to work for this win.”
Jonas said the rival Bears earned respect.
“They're so much better than when we played them early in the season,” she said. “I respect them, and it's nice to respect one of your biggest rivals. They have a very good team.”
Sydney Paialii scored 10 points and Abby Hix added eight for the Patriots. Adreon Bell, Haley Rodriguez and Rachel Losch scored eight each for the Bears.
“We have three seniors who have been with the program all four years – Merina Thomas, Jessica Roland and Chrissy HoChee – and it is tough to say goodbye to them,” Thompson said battling her emotions. “But we're young, and we're going to come back strong next year. I already told the girls who are coming back to expect to be better players next season.”