The William Chrisman girls basketball team had a lot of turnover from last season’s squad.
All five of the Bears’ starters from the 2016-17 campaign are gone and last year’s bench players and some freshmen have had to step in a bigger role this season.
In fact, of the Bears’ rotational players, only one is an upperclassman – junior Adreal Bell. Despite being a young and inexperienced team, Chrisman played defense and handled host Grain Valley’s full-court press with a veteran-like poise in Thursday’s 42-27 win, extending its win streak to three games.
The Chrisman defense was led by freshman point guard Amanda Szopinski, who made life extremely difficult for the Eagles guards. Her speed and her ball pressure helped force 16 turnovers, including nine in the first half.
“She did a good job on the ball especially,” Chrisman coach Scott Schaefer said of Szopinski’s defense. “They had a couple of quick guards. I was really proud of her being in a good position most of the night.”
In fact, it was a solid team effort all around on the defensive side of the ball for Chrisman. It helped hold Grain Valley to single digits in every quarter and limited the Eagles’ two top scorers – Kendra Sibert and Maddie Knust to just 12 points combined.
“Our game plan was to keep it away from No. 32 (Knust),” said Szopinski, who had seven points, three steals and helped hold Grain Valley to 33 percent shooting. “We know she could shoot, so we just keep it out of her hands as much as possible.”
Chrisman (3-3) led 13-8 after one period and went into halftime ahead 21-15. Jennifer David led the charge offensively in the first half for the Bears as she had 10 of 11 points, all of which were scored in the paint.
“She actually sprained her ankle pretty bad on Tuesday,” Schaefer said of David. “We didn’t even know if she was going to be able to play. She was a little hobbled tonight but it looked like the adrenaline kicked in and she played well. She’ll be sore tomorrow.”
Despite Grain Valley consistently throwing the full-court press at the Bears, the Eagles had a hard time creating turnovers. Chrisman seemed well prepared for the pressure.
“Yes and no,” Szopinski said when asked is she was prepared to handle the press. “It takes a lot of practice. But I tried my hardest and it worked.”
Chrisman limited Grain Valley to just six points in the third and it pushed its lead up to 30-21. In the fourth is when freshman forward Jacque David helped close it out with seven of her game-high 17 points, which she scored despite being in foul trouble for a significant portion of the game.
At 6-foot, Jacque David was able to score in the post with relative ease, even when double-teamed against a smaller Grain Valley team. She also showed the ability to guard Eagle ball handlers on the perimeter and the ability to shoot from the perimeter.
“They have good guards and posts who can handle the ball,” Grain Valley coach Randy Draper said. “While they are younger, they are skilled younger. We knew it was going to be difficult.”
The Eagles (3-1) suffered their first loss of the season and Draper gave a lot of credit to the Bears for stifling his offense. He was still pleased with the way his team played.