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Bears can't foul up lead in win over Staley

Strong free throw shooting helps William Chrisman stave off Staley's 3-point barrage

By Cody Thorn
The Examiner

In the final 3 minutes, William Chrisman was almost perfect from the free-throw line.

The Bears hit 13 of 14 and that helped them hold off a hot-shooting Staley team 59-50 Thursday at Staley High School.

The win snapped the Falcons’ three-game winning streak against their former conference foe. It also was yet another competitive game in the series dating back a decade. In 12 of the past 18 meetings the winner prevailed by 10 or less points, and in the three most recent games Staley won by a combined 10 points. 

This game could’ve been a lot closer had the Bears not shined at the free-throw line – an emphasis in practice on Wednesday.

“We spent a little extra time on it last night,” Chrisman coach Scott Schaefer. “And the kids that have been struggling came through. They were sort of laughing. We had a certain number they need to achieve and they were having fun with it. They really enjoyed the fact they shot well tonight.”

Chrisman (6-4) held a 39-33 lead going into the fourth quarter but Staley’s Aleigha Jackson hit a 3-pointer on the first possession. That was the ninth 3-pointer for the Falcons (4-2).

A pair of key baskets around the 4-minute mark gave the Bears some wiggle room. Mela Taula drove toward the basket but while in the paint kicked the ball out to Gia Moore on the 3-point line on the wing. The senior got the ball but quickly passed to a wide open Amanda Szopinski at the top of the key. The guard drained the 3-pointer to make it 44-36.

On the next possession, Jolee Spinks grabbed an offensive rebound and scored to give the Bears a 10-point lead.

Staley pulled within eight but with 3:04 left, the Falcons started to rack up fouls.

The Bears responded by hitting free throws, as Taula hit the first of a one-and-one. She missed the second, but that was the only miss the remainder of the game.

Szopinski hit four in a row, but between those were two free throw conversions by Jacque David.

“It felt nice (to make the free throws),” Szponiski said. “We have been shooting and shooting in practice until we make enough in a row. It was crazy. We had to do it, trying to keep the point distance. It felt nice. I know we have the ability to do it.”

Taula, David and Moore each made two free throws in the final 55 seconds. Over the final minute, Staley hit three more 3-pointers, pulling within seven with 14.8 seconds left, but Moore hit the final two to account for the difference.

“They were hitting 3s and we were hitting free throws,” Schaefer said with a chuckle, as Staley finished with 13 3-pointers. “We saw them on film a number of times. They have individually shot well but not collectively like they did tonight.”

Staley hit four 3-pointers in the first quarter and led 14-11. Chrisman finally took the lead on a 3-pointer from Krysta McAllister with 3:52 to go in the second, 20-18. That was part of a 12-2 run to close the first half and gave the Bears a 25-20 lead at the break.

In the first three minutes of the second half, Staley hit three 3-pointers – two by Morgan Ferrara, who was honored prior to the game for scoring her 1,000th point last month.

Her 3-pointer with 5:08 left gave the Falcons a 29-28 lead in the third, but two free throws from Szopinski followed 30 seconds later and the Bears never trailed again.

Moore and Taula had 14 points each for Chrisman to lead the scoring. Szponiski finished with 11 and David scored 10 to round out a balanced attack.

Ferrara and Aiko Lane – who hit four 3-pointers – led Staley with 13 points each.