On an emotion-packed Senior Night at William Chrisman High School, the Bears finally found a way to get past Suburban Middle Seven rival Raytown – they went bowling.
Well, actually coach Jake Kates’ squad turned in the best overall performance of the season, dominating every phase Tuesday night, but he credits some time away from the gym for a bit of the team’s success in an 82-67 victory over the Blue Jays.
"I think our last game (a 76-62 conference loss to Ruskin) was the low point of the season for me," Kates said. "The loss, an incident in the locker room, it was all bad. So, the next day, when the guys got to the locker room, we went bowling. We all needed to get away from the game for a while – and look at the way they played tonight.
"Maybe we should have gone bowling more this season."
While bowling might have taken the Bears’ minds of two previous losses this season to the conference co-champion Blue Jays, a hot start by Isaiah Jackson played a key role in one of the biggest wins of the season.
"Everything we’ve been working on was designed to stop Isaiah Jackson because he is a great player," said Blue Jays coach Cody Buford, whose team wrapped up regular season play with an 18-7 overall record and a 10-2 conference mark.
"And we couldn’t do anything to stop him. He just took the game over early, and they got the big lead and never looked back," Buford added. "I’ve said many times that there are about eight games a year where you really play well, eight where it’s really a grind and eight where you just don’t have it. And we didn’t have it tonight – and you can credit Chrisman for that because they played a great game."
After an exciting first quarter, in which the Bears held a slim 15-14 lead, Jackson scored the first seven points of the second quarter. By the time the smoke had cleared, the Bears held a 36-21 halftime lead.
They ran off to a 12-3 lead to start the third period and the rout was on.
"Raytown has been in our heads all season, and tonight we didn’t think about playing Raytown, we just went out and played – and played one of our best games of the season," said Jackson, who finished with a team-high 20 points. "This win is huge, because it gives us a lot of confidence going into district play next week."
Fellow senior Zachariah Rowe, who added 15 points, agreed.
"We have so much confidence after this win, we can’t wait for our next game," Rowe said. "I think this is the best game we’ve played this season and one of the best games we’ve played since I’ve been at Chrisman. This is the time of year you want to play your best basketball."
After the win, Kates read a special message to all the seniors on his team, and the upperclassmen then posed for a variety of team photos and photos with family and friends.
"The only way I got through this, is that I wrote everything I was going to say down," Kates said. "I couldn’t have gotten through it if I had just gone up and started to talk about each kid because they’re all so special.’
Seniors Marcus Wigfall and Alex Calhoun added 10 points for the Bears.
Raytown’s Cortez Howlett led all scorers with 21 points and Terrance Jones added 19.