Last Tuesday, a 83-59 loss to Oak Park resulted in a five-game losing streak for the William Chrisman boys basketball team.
That’s when head coach Jake Kates and his team knew it was time to put on its hard hat and put in some extra work in practice.
That’s exactly what the Bears did, and it paid dividends in the form of a 56-48 win against crosstown and Suburban Middle Six rival Fort Osage, ending their losing skid at five.
“We needed this one bad,” Chrisman senior guard Kelvyn Mason said. “We knew we had a chance to beat them from the start, but this definitely boosted our confidence.
“We practiced everything hard. When we come to work, we just act like this is a job and we work hard every day. We’re swinging that hammer and breaking that wall.”
Kates’ avatar on Twitter is a good representation of the types of practices the team has had the last two days. In the photo is a hard hat with the William Chrisman logo on it. Sitting beside the hat is a sledgehammer with the initials of all of the players written on it. Those two things represent the hard work that Kates instills in his team.
“You just have to keep swinging the hammer because you never know when you’re going to break through,” Kates said. “You have to keep on swinging when you’re on a five-game losing streak. Our guys kept swinging the hammer and got a good win tonight.”
One of the guys who personified that for the Bears (9-13, 3-4 Middle Six) was reserve guard Zachariah Rowe, who had 14 points. Not only was he a key factor on offense but he made some key hustle plays in the game and even had three offensive rebounds.
“You would never know that he’s the smallest guy out there because he has the biggest heart,” Mason said of Rowe. “He plays hard every time he gets in.”
Added Kates: “He’s a special kid. He’s instant offense of the bench. He can score right away. We try to keep him on the floor even when they try to mismatch him defensively. Tonight, even when he missed, he got the rebound and brought a lot of energy.”
In a low scoring game in which points were a premium, Mason helped keep the offense afloat with a game-high 22 points. He also made a driving bounce pass to forward Daniel Carson for a 3-point play midway through the fourth quarter. It helped push what was once a one-point lead in the fourth quarter to an eight-point lead (46-38).
“Kelyvn is a scorer,” Rowe said. “We know that we can rely on him to finish and do his job. We know he’ll get everyone else involved, too.”
Added Kates: “This probably was his best all-around game of the year. He got after it defensively and took the right shots and I think that showed.”
Chrisman played solid defense in the first half, holding Fort Osage to just six points in the first period and 13 in the second. The Bears led 11-6 after one quarter and went into halftime up 30-19, which included a seven-point second quarter from Rowe and featured a lightning quick spin move from the sophomore, helping him deke a Fort defender and get a layup.
Chrisman kept Fort Osage at bay for most of the third until the Indians surged late in the third and early in the fourth. They ended the third period on a 6-0 spurt, highlighted by Nick Dye’s 3-pointer and Jared Larson’s driving layup.
The Indians (5-16, 0-7) extended that run to a 10-0 spurt early in the fourth Larson and forward Ty Baker both connected on layups to narrow the Bears lead to 38-37. But that was counted by a 8-1 run by Chrisman, capped by Carson’s big 3-point play. Fort Osage cut the lead to six later in the quarter, but did not get any closer.
“Our defense was a lot better tonight,” Indians coach Josh Wilson said. “They can go score. They dang near scored 100 against us before. We worked a lot on defense and it showed. But then when we came down here (on the offensive end), we couldn’t get a bucket. We got some good looks, we just didn’t knock them down.”
Baker led Fort Osage with 11 points and Larson added nine.