• Fort's guard up for Bears

  • Over the last year, the tables have turned on the Fort Osage basketball program.

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  • Over the last year, the tables have turned on the Fort Osage basketball program.
    In Indians coach Josh Wilson’s first six seasons with the program, he repeated the familiar talking point so many coaches use this time of year.
    “We used to be the team that put 0-0 up on the board,” Wilson said. “It doesn’t matter what our record is to this point.”
    Those first six years, as the Indians totaled just 52 victories, it was used as a motivator that even though the regular season might not have gone as planned, postseason goals were still attainable. Now, Wilson’s using it to sound a warning signal.
    “We did the same thing before practice the other day,” Wilson said. “Only we told them that other teams are thinking like we used to. They’re saying that everything else has been leading up to this.”
    The Indians better have their guard up as they enter today’s 7 p.m. Class 5 District 15 semifinal contest with William Chrisman at Liberty High School. Although Fort has posted a 19-4 record – their best mark since 1970 – and have won 10 consecutive games, they are still just the No. 2 seed in a wide-open field that started with six teams with winning records.
    Top-seeded Liberty edged Fort 60-58 in the Indians’ fourth game. The Blue Jays’ semifinal opponent, Winnetonka, gave Fort one of its toughest games of the season in a 56-55 Indians win on Jan. 30.
    And the Bears are among the hottest teams in the metro, having won 11 of their last 13 games since a 2-8 start. Fort downed Chrisman (13-10) soundly in the teams’ regular-season meeting, a 63-43 verdict on Feb. 1, but the Bears are fresh off an emotional 49-47 comeback triumph over Truman in the first round.
    “We can’t wait to play Fort Osage,” said Chrisman junior Alex Ball, who swiped a key steal in the closing seconds of Monday’s win over the Patriots. “We respect them and we want to play the best. We proved we compete at the highest level with this win (over Truman). We are so excited and so thankful to still be playing.”
    The Indians also aren’t putting much stock in that regular-season pounding they put on Chrisman. After the Bears’ win Monday night, Wilson sent a text message to his players reminding them of their own recent postseason history. A year ago, Fort suffered two regular-season losses to Winnetonka, including a 61-42 thumping on their home court, before upending the Griffins 77-54 in the semifinals on the way to the program’s first district title.
    “The thing I’ve said all year about (Chrisman), and I always say about (Bears coach) John Vickers’ teams, you’re going to get their best effort and maximum effort from every kid up and down that roster,” Wilson said. “All 15 kids are going to be playing their hearts out.”
    Page 2 of 2 - Follow Shawn Garrison on Twitter: @GarrisonEJC

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