With his top two scorers effectively out of commission, William Chrisman boys basketball coach Jake Kates knew his team faced a tough task Friday night.
After the Bears stumbled through the first quarter, that task became even tougher.
Chrisman managed only four points in a lethargic first eight minutes against Oak Park and quickly found itself down double digits. But once the Bears woke up and reverted to their full-court best in the second half, they overcame their early sloppiness and rolled to a 60-46 Suburban Middle Seven victory at Chrisman.
“We knew coming in it was going to be a grinder tonight,” Kates said. “I said it was not going to be pretty, and boy they made me a fortune teller in that first quarter.”
Chrisman (15-6, 6-2 conference) managed only four points in the first quarter while turning the ball over eight times against Oak Park’s press. The Bears finished the first quarter down 11-4 and trailed 14-4 early in the second quarter.
“We had no energy,” Kates said. “And I’ve got a team full of guards that can’t even break a press. It was very surprising, but it’s something we’ve got to work on.”
“I don’t think were expecting them to have that much pressure in that zone,” Chrisman guard Kelvyn Mason said. “I think we all just got a little bit flustered and you see what happened.”
Chrisman had to dig out of the deficit without senior guard Dawson Herl, who was battling the flu, and junior guard Zachariah Rowe, who’s missed four games with a groin injury. And they needed an energy boost from junior guard Isaiah Jackson, who lagged through much of the first half.
“We go with Isaiah,” Kates said. “When Isaiah goes, we go. He’s our engine, and he was playing lethargic and turning the ball over and he just doesn’t do that.”
Jackson, one of three Bears to score a team-high 12 points, helped the Bears get their full-court offense back in gear. Chrisman ended the second quarter with a 9-2 run and cut Oak Park’s lead to 22-20 when Alex Calhoun drained a three-pointer at the halftime buzzer.
Another Calhoun trey early in the third quarter gave Chrisman its first lead at 25-22. After Oak Park went back up 31-30, the Bears took the lead for good when they ended the third quarter with an 11-3 run. Jackson converted a layup off a steal and added a putback between a 3-pointer and a buzzer beater from Marcus Wigfall.
Chrisman led 41-34 after the third quarter and gradually built its lead in the final period.
“We stuck with our stuff,” Kates said. “These kids are resilient. They play hard, no matter what. That’s why I was really disappointed in that first quarter because they weren’t playing hard.”
Even with Herl and Rowe out, Chrisman still managed to have four players finish in double figures. Senior guard Tony Hilton and junior guard Marcus Wigfall joined Jackson with 12 points each, and Mason finished with 11.
Oak Park (7-12, 2-7), which lost to Chrisman 71-60 on Dec. 21, got a game-high 17 points from Ahmad Louis and 11 points from Ahmed Mahgoub.