That’s how long it’s been since the William Chrisman boys basketball team last made it to the state final four.
The 20-8 Bears have a chance to end that drought at 6 p.m. Saturday at Silverstein Eye Centers Arena. To make it there, they will have to get past a red-hot Lee’s Summit North team in the Class 5 state quarterfinals.
“To me, this is kind of unreal,” Chrisman guard Isaiah Jackson said. “Going back to eighth grade watching high schoolers, it was a dream to be in this position. Being a part of this culture change is pretty special.”
The Broncos (25-3) won 13 games in a row and beat Chrisman 74-73 in the championship of the Phog Allen Invitational in December. North edged Suburban Big Six Conference rival Blue Springs South 69-67 in the sectional round Wednesday and were led by one of the best backcourt duos in the state – Javaunte Hawkins and Mikel Henderson – both of whom scored a game-high 27 points.
“All of their guards are really good,” Chrisman coach Jake Kates said of the Broncos. “I think it’s going to be a really fun game to watch. It will be a fun game for the fans and a fun game for the players to play in an up-tempo game. I fully expect to have game like we had in December.”
The key, according to Jackson and Marcus Wigfall, is to slow down the Broncos backcourt.
“Javaunte is a really good shooter so we are going to have to keep a hand in his face all the time,” Wigfall said. “He also likes to attack, we have to make sure to keep him out of the paint. And we need to keep Mikel out of the paint, too. He’s a drive first player but can shoot, too. If we can stop them, we’ll be successful.”
Jackson, who has guarded the opposing team’s best perimeter player throughout the playoffs, said he’s looking forward to the challenge of guarding Hawkins, who’s averaging about 26 points per game (Henderson averages nearly 15 points per game).
“I am not afraid to challenge anybody, so I am looking forward to it,” Jackson said.
The Bears will be coming in with a lot of confidence. They defeated a talented Park Hill South team 55-51 in sectionals and they did it with defense, holding the Panthers to just 37.5 percent shooting from the field.
“We went into that game thinking we could win and not a lot people did, I don’t think,” Kates said. “Any time you have to gut through a game like that without some of your guys, it does nothing but help you as you continue to advance.”
Another thing that makes Chrisman dangerous is its balanced scoring. The Bears have eight players who can score in double digits on any given day, so keying on one or two players is difficult.
Broncos coach Mike Hilbert said the key for his team will be to keep Chrisman out of the paint. The Bears have found success by driving into the lane either for a layup or a kickout pass to an open player behind the arc.
“They have kind of a simple approach,” North coach Mike HIlbert said. “But it’s been working for them in terms of spacing the floor and driving in and kicking it out to open shooters.
“They have guards who can attack you off the dribble. In high school basketball, it’s a difficult task to try and contain that. And they have five guys that can catch and shoot from outside. So you can’t really crowd the paint.”
Sound transition defense also will be key, Hilbert said.
“With Chrisman, you better get back whether they make or miss the shot,” he said. “They come downhill in a hurry. You have to slow them down and make them play against your half-court defense.”
With the way both teams have been playing in the playoffs, it’s really anyone’s game.
“We’re going to have to play a great game,” HIlbert said. “At this point, with eight teams left, everyone left is really good. Our guys are focused and ready to go, and we’re ready to play Saturday night.”
Added Kates: “Both teams know what they need to do. It will come down to who can execute.”