The winning formula for the William Chrisman boys basketball team has been to get as many guys involved on offense as possible.
That led the Bears to a No. 1 seed in the Class 5 District 15 tournament and their best record in 10 years.
They followed that formula in Thursday’s semifinal game against Liberty. Eight Chrisman players scored, with five scoring eight points or more as it rolled to a 59-42 win at North Kansas City High School.
The Bears advanced to the championship game and will play Liberty North at 2 p.m. Saturday (see related story), and will attempt to win their first district title since 2002.
They found success with tenacious man-to-man defense and pressuring the Blue Jay guards, which led to 20 Liberty turnovers. The Bears focused a lot of their attention to Blue Jays forward Grant Stubbs. Each time he caught the ball in the paint, Chrisman had two to three defenders swarming him, as he finished with just five points.
“When we defend like we did today, we have a shot to beat anybody,” Chrisman coach Jake Kates said. “We had seven scenarios when (Stubbs) comes off this type of screen or this type of screen. Dawson played it to perfection and the help side played it to perfection. We made him uncomfortable.”
Added junior Alexander Calhoun: “We took a test over him, for real. Honestly, we just did what coach told us to do – stop him from shooting the three and stop him from rebounding and box out.”
On offense, Chrisman spread the ball around and used the quickness of players like Isaiah Jackson, Marcus Wigfall, Zachariah Rowe and Dawson Herl to drive to the basket to either shoot a layup or kick it out to an open shooter for a 3-pointer. That strategy especially paid off in a third quarter that Chrisman outscored Liberty 21-13 to double its halftime lead (32-24).
“It’s great because when one person is off, we have four other players who can knock shots down,” Rowe said. “We don’t have to rely on just one player. We have the whole team. That’s very scary for other teams. I know they worry about it a lot. They have to guard everyone on the court.”
The Bears (18-8) jumped out to a 6-0 lead after a pair of driving layups from Kelvyn Mason and Jackson. Jackson and Rowe each hit a 3-pointer to help their team take a 16-10 lead going into the second period.
Liberty narrowed the gap to 20-18 midway through the second before a drive-and-kick from Jackson resulted in a Calhoun 3-pointer, which sparked a 7-0 spurt. That helped Chrisman take an eight-point halftime lead.
The Bears led then expanded their lead to 41-28 following Wigfall’s driving, left-handed layup. Liberty countered with a 6-0 run to cut the lead to seven. That’s when Chrisman got its biggest play of the game. Tony Hilton received a swing pass from Jackson and connected on a 3-pointer while being fouled. He hit the ensuing free throw to complete the four-point play.
“When he knocked that down, that was a game-changer,” Kates said. “It’s definitely an energy play when you get a four-point play.”
From there the Bears took control and never looked back. Chrisman used a four corners offense to run out much of the fourth-quarter clock.
Herl led Chrisman with 12 points, followed by Calhoun with 11, Jackson with nine and Rowe and Wigfall each had eight.