The William Chrisman girls basketball team appeared to be in good shape going into the Class 5 District 14 tournament.
The Bears were the No. 2 state-ranked team in Class 5 and were coming in with a 22-3 record. However, the Bears still had an uphill climb to make it to the sectional round.
In their district the Bears were going to have to get past No. 6-ranked Liberty, which also made the Class 5 final four last year, in the semifinals. And if they won that game, they would have had to face No. 3-ranked North Kansas City, which is 23-3.
It was a tough task for the Bears to get through arguably the toughest district in the state. Liberty proved that as it knocked off Chrisman in a 46-32 win Tuesday at North Kansas City High School.
Liberty advances to the championship game to play the Hornets, who defeated Liberty North 29-22 in the other semifinal contest.
Chrisman sophomore Jacque David, who finished with a game-high 15 points on 6-of-11 shooting from the floor, got her team off to a hot start when she connected 3-pointer and an elbow jumper to put her team up 5-0 early.
From there, a lid was on the basket for Chrisman. Following David’s basket, the Bears shot just 1 of 12 for the rest of the first half, even while getting a handful of decent looks at the basket in the paint. Meanwhile, the Blue Jays made their first six 3-point attempts, picking apart the Bears’ zone defense.
Liberty took a 16-7 lead at the end of the first quarter, and Chrisman was scoreless in the second half, allowing the Blue Jays to go into halftime ahead 23-7.
“We rolled the dice,” Chrisman coach Scott Schaefer said. “We were a little shorthanded and didn’t think we could chase them the whole game. We played a little zone and they just drilled us.
“They double- and triple-teamed Jacque in the paint, but she’s used to that. She usually gets a lot of attention. But she mostly shot from the outside, but it looks good when you make them. We have some kids who can shoot the basketball, we just couldn’t get them good looks to offset the attention Jacque was getting.”
In the third quarter, David took over on offense. Chrisman point guard Amanda Szopinski pulled the Bears within 13 points with a conventional three-point play. After that, David buried four consecutive shots from outside the paint.
Late in the period, David rifled a pass to a wide-open Jolee Spinks, who was fouled deep in the paint and made both of her ensuing free throws as Chrisman cut Liberty’s lead to 25-21 going into the fourth quarter.
“They took away the inside and we had to figure out a way to catch up,” David said. “We tried to do some stuff inside and a little bit outside.
“They pressured us a lot, especially their point guard Olivia (Nelson). That made it tough.”
Just as it seemed the Bears (22-4) were finally prying momentum from Blue Jays, Liberty went on a 10-0 spurt to start the fourth, which was sparked by a pair of old-fashioned three-point plays from Mary Nelson and Jillian Fleming, who both finished with 14 points each.
With Liberty (21-5) up 35-21, it proved to be too big of a deficit for the Bears to overcome, especially for a team that likes to slow down the pace and play in the half-court. To make things more difficult for the Bears, Liberty shot 20 of 22 from the free throw line.
“I guess we need to work on our free throw defense,” Schaefer joked.
Even though the season came to an end early, Schaefer said he was pleased with how the season went.
“I am really proud of our kids,” Schaefer said. “We had two seniors and they were very good seniors, good people and good leaders. Hopefully they showed our younger players what being a Bear is all about.”