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Strong night at the line lifts Chrisman girls in opener

By Cody Thorn
The Examiner
William Chrisman guard Krysta McAllister, front, moves the ball down court after grabbing a rebound in Monday's game against Savannah in the Savannah Tournament. The Bears went on to claim a 50-21 victory.

SAVANNAH, Mo. — William Chrisman didn’t score its first bucket until nearly 3 ½ minutes had run off the clock in its season opener Monday.

But thanks to an attacking-mentality the Bears went to the foul line often.

The Bears converted and raced out to a 19-0 lead, paving the way for a 50-21 victory over Savannah in the first round of the Savannah Invitational on Monday night.

“We are happy,” Chrisman coach Scott Schaefer said of the opening-night win, the ninth in the past 10 years to start the year. “We made some mistakes as all teams do and you know, sometimes the ball didn’t go in like we thought it should. But overall, it was nice.”

The Bears, coming off a 14-13 record last year, built a 9-0 lead on free throws, and then after missing two more free throws, sophomore Mela Taula grabbed a rebound and put it back up for an 11-0 lead. She then scored on another offensive rebound the next trip down the court.

Chrisman held Savannah scoreless for more than six minutes and took a 19-4 lead after the first quarter.

Savannah, coming off a 10-day quarantine period for the entire team, didn’t get its first basket until early in the second quarter.

Once Savannah scored, the Bears responded with a 10-3 run to build a 20-point lead. During that span, Gia Moore hit a pair of 3s, part of her 11-point night.

Chrisman held a 31-10 lead at the break against Savannah.

“I feel like we know our season might get cut short so we want to keep going and keep going,” said Taula, who scored a game-high 16 points — 10 coming in the first half. “We want to keep pushing and not let off the gas.”

The aggressive style on both ends worked for the Bears in the first half, driving to the basket and forcing fouls. Less than three minutes into the game, the Savages were already up to eight fouls and Chrisman shot 17 free throws in the first 8 minutes.

The Bears out-rebounded and out-hustled the Savages and beat them for the second straight year in the tournament.

“I feel like we moved the ball better and we communicated better than we did at the beginning of the year last year,” Taula said. “We know every loose ball and every rebound is a chance for points, and every point counts.”

Three-pointers from Taula and Amanda Szopinski highlighted a 12-point third, which set the game into turbo-clock mode early in the fourth. Szopinski, a senior guard, was the third Bear to finish in double figures, scoring 10.

The Bears were playing without two players due to quarantine and senior Jacque David is still out of the lineup after tearing her ACL last year.

Chrisman will be tested in the semifinal game on Wednesday, playing Maryville at 7 p.m. The Spoofhounds, ranked No. 5 in the final Missouri Basketball Coaches Association Class 3 state poll last year, hammered Kansas City Southeast 91-29 in the late game Monday.

“They are really good and they have a D-I player and they have good players around her,” Schaefer said, referencing Serena Sundell, a 6-foot-1 guard who has committed to play for Kansas State coach and Blue Springs High School graduate Jeff Mittie. “It will be a major test for us but we are happy to be playing. I told the kids the workers and officials aren’t there for themselves, they are out there so the kids can play, and we are pleased with the opportunity to play.”