Last season, senior Alex Calhoun’s role on the William Chrisman boys basketball team was much different.
During the 2018-19 campaign, he came off the bench mostly as a 3-point specialist. However, after three starters graduated from that team, Calhoun was thrust into the starting lineup. He’s become one of the Bears’ primary scorers and has expanded his offensive game.
That showed in Saturday’s Suburban Middle Seven Conference matchup with rival Fort Osage as he scored a game-high 28 points in a 77-68 win.
“I think he’s a kid who should be getting Division II looks, no doubt about it,” Chrisman coach Jake Kates said. “He’s an X-factor. When he’s shooting like that, he has the green light. He’s not just a shooter anymore, he’ll drive get into the paint and finish at the rim.”
Calhoun shot 10 of 15 from the field, including 7 of 10 from the 3-point line and he made all five of his shots in the second half.
“You can penetrate and kick out and he’ll knock it down. It makes your job easy,” Chrisman senior point guard Isaiah Jackson said. “We are blessed to have a guy like him.”
When asked about his big game, Calhoun deferred all the credit.
“I relied on my teammates,” he said. “They got me the ball and I read the play.”
Calhoun wasn’t the only Bear who thrived on Saturday. Jackson scored 17 points and grabbed a team-high 11 rebounds.
“It started at home,” Jackson said. “My dad was pretty tall, so he was a rebounder. He taught me about rebounding. I always took pride in that.”
Added Kates: “He’s the best rebounding guard that I have seen in my years coaching basketball. That’s big for us. To have the guy who you want to have the ball in his hands, be the guy that’s rebounding, then you can start your offense without having to pass.”
Jackson has also embraced being more aggressive on the offensive end than he was last year. Against Fort Osage he attacked the basket early and often.
“He’s starting to figure out how good he can be offensively,” Kates said. “There’s no accident that he’s starting to get some mid-major Division I looks.”
The win didn’t come easy for the Bears (9-3) as it was a close game throughout. Fort Osage (4-6) played one of its best offensive games of the season. Five different players for the Indians scored, including Eli Parker, who scored six of his 14 points in the first period to help Fort Osage go up 17-14.
Chrisman’s fast-paced style started to take root in the second quarter. Jackson went coast-to-coast for a layup to put the Bears up 24-22. The Indians answered with a 6-3 run fueled by four points from senior swingman Triston Turner.
The teams traded leads five times after that and Calhoun notched the last score of the period on a 3-pointer to help put his team ahead 34-32 at halftime.
“We have the guards to leak out and we get the assists,” Jackson said.
In the third, each time Fort Osage pulled the score close, the Bears had a response. On a pair of occasions, Calhoun responded to a Fort Osage score with a 3-pointer.
Near the end of the quarter, Chrisman sophomore Ralph Covington converted a conventional three-point play on a putback to give his team a 56-50 advantage going into the final period.
Calhoun extended the lead to 59-50 on the first possession of the fourth with yet another three. However, an 11-2 run keyed by some big plays from freshman Larenzo Fenner, including a putback layup to end the spurt, cut it to 63-61.
However, the Bears got stops when it mattered most and hit key shots down the stretch. Calhoun hit his final three after Fenner’s basket to put the Bears up five. Shortly after, the Indians tried a full-court press, but Marcus Wigfall scored on a layup out of the press break to make it 68-63.
Senior reserve guard Zachariah Rowe scored six of his 17 points down the stretch to help put it away. Calhoun sealed it with an old-fashioned three-point play late to make it 77-68.
Despite the loss, there were some positives to take away for Fort Osage coach Josh Wilson. He had four players in double figures, including Turner (18), Parker (14), Fenner (10) and Miles Dunfield (10).
“We didn’t play bad tonight,” Wilson said. “Some things went bad for us. It could have gone worse, but we were able to overcome it. We were able to stay in the game until late there.
“Our most troublesome thing tonight was our quick shots. You shoot the ball quick and they’d go to the other side and get a layup. We try to work on that and be patient. We are still working on what’s a good shot and what’s a great shot.”