• Streak boosts Bears into contention

  • A month ago, the William Chrisman boys basketball team was an afterthought in the area hoops scene.

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  • A month ago, the William Chrisman boys basketball team was an afterthought in the area hoops scene.
    Now, after a stunning seven-game winning streak, the Bears not only own a winning record but are taking on a new label as a Middle Seven Conference contender after Tuesday’s 72-64 victory over Raytown.
    That road win improves Chrisman’s overall record to 9-8 and conference mark to 5-1, just a game behind Fort Osage (6-0) for the Middle Seven lead. The Bears and Indians meet up Friday at Fort Osage for one of the most meaningful contests in the rivalry’s recent history.
    The idea of Chrisman competing for a conference crown would have seemed absurd last month as the Bears stumbled to a 2-8 start before hitting their current streak.
    Even Chrisman junior guard Brett Pendergist admitted he didn’t really expect his team to be in this position this time a month ago.
    “At first, no,” said Pendergist, who led the Bears with 15 points, five rebounds and five steals Tuesday. “But then we started changing our ways. At practice we started coming together because there were a bunch of new players and we started clicking.”
    The Bears have also gradually developed a confidence that bordered on outright swagger against the Blue Jays (4-13, 3-3). At one point, Pendergist beat Raytown’s Jailen Gill to a loose ball and barked out some trash talk on his way back up the court. That drew a warning from the officials and some stern words from Chrisman coach John Vickers, but Vickers loved the poise his guys displayed during a pair of second-half Raytown runs.
    After the Bears took a 45-33 lead early in the third quarter, the Jays reclaimed momentum by firing off an 11-0 run. But Chrisman settled down and pushed the lead back to 55-48 on the final play of the period as Pendergist swiped a steal in the final eight seconds, pushed the ball past halfcourt and lofted a pass that Elyzer Grullon dropped in as the horn sounded.
    The Bears went up 57-48 in the first minute of the fourth, but again Raytown rallied, drawing within 59-57 with 3:19 to play. But down the stretch, Pendergist sank 5 of 6 free-throw attempts and Eli Alvis drained a pair of mid-range jumpers in the final two minutes as Chrisman pulled away.
    “I think you have to learn how to win,” Vickers said. “... That breeds confidence and you can begin to see it in their stature and the way they’re playing.”
    Outside of mixing in some new pieces, Vickers hasn’t been able to explain his team’s turnaround, but sophomore Chris Horn said it comes down to the Bears wanting to kick the bad memories of last year’s 20-loss campaign.
    Page 2 of 2 - “We were just tired of losing,” said Horn, who notched 12 points. “The last couple years we had a bad record and this group of guys here, they want to win.”
    Alvis chipped in with nine points for Chrisman while Alex Ball finished with eight. Gill paced Raytown with 18 points and six boards, Bryan Saxton and Brandon Sublett ended with 11 points apiece and Denzel Crawley posted six points and 11 rebounds off the bench.
    Vickers also received a group hug from his team after the game to congratulate him on a new addition to his family. At 11:33 a.m. Monday, his wife Stephanie gave birth to the couple’s fourth child, Samuel John Vickers. At 9 pounds, 15 ounces and 22 1/2 inches long, Dad already has visions of his youngest suiting up for the Bears someday.
    “I’m thinking 6-5 point guard,” Vickers said.

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