Chrisman fends off No. 1 St. Pius X in OT to capture district title

By Cody Thorn
The Examiner
William Chrisman girls basketball players pose with the championship trophy after upsetting No. 1-ranked St. Pius X 49-45 in overtime in the Class 5 District 14 tournament final Thursday at Chrisman.

Perhaps home-court advantage played a part in William Chrisman winning its first girls basketball championship since the 2015-16 season.

The Bears found out mid-day on Thursday they would become the host of the Class 5 District 14 championship game. The No. 2 seed would welcome top-seeded and Class 5 No. 1-ranked St. Pius X into the Bear Den because a water main break prevented the Northland school from hosting the game.

The home-court advantage worked out for the Bears, who knocked off the Warriors 49-45 in overtime.

“It worked out really well,” said Chrisman senior guard Gia Moore, who learned of the change at noon while doing virtual class. “Playing at home always gives you a good feeling. That is the gym we practice and those are the baskets we shoot on. Playing at home is a better feeling in general. I would rather play at home than somewhere else.”

The Bears (21-5) claimed their 14th straight win and will face the winner of Friday night’s game between Grandview and St. Teresa’s Academy in the Class 5 sectional playoffs next Wednesday.

Chrisman is now 9-0 at home this year and started off hot Thursday, racing to a 14-5 lead after the first quarter against the Warriors (21-3). Jolee Spinks scored all four of her points in the first, while Moore and Krysta McAllister each hit 3-pointers.

The nine-point lead quickly expanded early in the second quarter, peaking at 17 – 24-7 – but Pius finally got hot late in the quarter. Olivia White had a pair of three-point plays and Mia Simone hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer.

Chrisman led 24-18 at halftime but ceded a 9-0 run to close the first half.

“We lost momentum when they hit the 3-pointer at the buzzer,” Chrisman coach Scott Schaefer said. “It gave them a rush. We were up six but it felt like we were getting beat.”

The Warriors – who bumped up from Class 3 to 5 this year due to the playoff success factor – stayed hot in the third quarter. A 9-3 run allowed Pius to tie it at 27. The Warriors ultimately went ahead, 30-29, when Simone hit her second 3-pointer.

“A lot can be attributed to them but don’t get me wrong, we made some unfortunate decisions at times and they increased their intensity and came after us,” Schaefer said. “We kind of stopped looking to score.”

Down by one going into the fourth, the Bears regained the lead 1 ½ minutes into the period on a pair of free throws from Jacque David, who finished with a game-high 20 points.

The lead would go back-and-forth with Pius regaining the lead but McAllister’s second 3-pointer with 4:30 remaining gave the Bears the lead. David scored with 3:29 left to put the Bears up three.

Up one with 1:18 left, the Bears missed a one-and-one free throw. That opened the door and Pius took the opportunity. A pair of free throws by Simone with 33.4 seconds left made it 37-36.

With 9.6 seconds left, Chrisman still trailed when Schaefer called a timeout. David inbounded to Moore, who quickly passed back to David, who went up for a shot and was fouled.

David went to the line with 3.3 seconds left and hit her first free throw attempt to tie it at 37. Pius called a timeout and David's second missed. Pius called another timeout with 1.8 seconds left but missed a long 3-pointer at the buzzer.

Chrisman struck first in overtime with a free throw by Moore and then a basket by David. The Bears’ lead grew to four on two free throws from David, making it 45-41, but Natalie Rippy’s only basket of the game helped the Warriors pull within one with less than two minutes to go, but Pius never got any closer. Moore went 3-for-4 from the free-throw line in overtime, while Amanda Szopinski had a three-point play.

“We were always playing with the lead there,” Schaefer said. “We were able to get the ball in (the basket) a few times when we needed to and we finished it.”

When asked about the tense moments in the second half, both Schaefer and Moore chimed in with their thoughts.

“We played as hard as we can but I felt it could go either way. I never had that secure feeling we would win,” Moore said.

Schaefer, who got his 600th career victory earlier this year, provided a bit more humor in the aftermath of the upset.

“I’m up there in years, I’ve done this for a while, but I told the kids after the game that you don’t know this, but I’m only 43 years old,” he said. “I just have been coaching girls basketball, that is why I look like I’m 60. It was nerve-racking tonight. We played really well for a while and held on for the rest of the game. They were the top seed in the district and ranked high in the state. It is a good win for our kids and for our school. I’m proud of them.”