Chrisman ready for sectional showdown with Grandview

Bill Althaus
The Examiner
William Chrisman senior forward Jacque David (34) drives for a reverse layup in a game earlier this season. Chrisman has surged with a 14-game win streak since David returned from an ACL injury that wiped out much of her junior season.

When the William Chrisman girls basketball team started the season 7-5 there was no panic, discord or disappointment.

Through this period they were missing center Jacque David, who was still rehabbing from last year’s torn ACL, and spark plug point guard Amanda Szopinski, who was coming back from an ankle sprain.

“We knew we were going to get better,” said Szopinski, who along with David has returned to spark the Bears’ resurgence, “but I never thought we’d be this good. It’s the best season I’ve ever been a part of – and we owe it all to our coach.”

Since the return of David and Szopinski, the Bears have won 14 in a row, including a 49-45 victory over top-seed and state No. 1-ranked St. Pius X in the Class 5 District 14 championship game.

Along the way, the 21-5 Bears finished undefeated in conference play (10-0) and presented coach Scott Schaefer with his 600th career win.

“Coach Schaefer has taught us all about basketball – much more than I could ever imagine – but he’s taught us so much more,” shooting guard Gia Moore said. “He’s taught us how to be better teammates and better people and how to grow up to be better adults. We all love him.”

And 6 p.m. Wednesday at Grandview, the Bears take that 14-game win streak to face the 16-7 Bulldogs in a Class 5 sectional playoff.

William Chrisman point guard Amanda Szopinski (44) drives past Raytown defender Summer Yancy (13) in the Bears' regular season finale. Szopinski has provided a spark for the 21-5 Bears since returning from an ankle injury earlier this season. The senior leads the metro area in assist-to-turnover ratio.

“That was a very good win – a nerve-racking win – but a very good win for our girls against St. Pius,” Schaefer said. “Our players are excited, and so is our coaching staff.

“We knew this team had the talent to have a special season, and they have bought into everything we’ve been talking about all season.”

When Schaefer heard about Szopinski and Moore’s comments he was thrilled and honored.

“That is the most important thing a coach can hear from his players, especially his seniors,” Schaefer said. “Those two young ladies, and all our seniors and every player on this team, mean so much to me and our coaching staff.”

David is averaging 13.3 points per game while shooting 54% from the field, while Szopinski is averaging 8.6 points and 3.1 assists per game and leads the metro area with a 2.32 assist-to-turnover ratio. Moore is averaging 9.7 points, 3.8 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 2.4 steals, and Mele Taula is hauling down 7.2 rebounds per game while averaging 10 points.

“This team is very special – they all know their strengths and never try to do too much,” Schaefer added. “We have role players, and they are comfortable with their roles. I think that is one big reason we have been so successful this season.”

The Bulldogs pose a legitimate threat to the Bears, and Schaefer promises that his team will be ready.

“I saw a tweet where this is the first time in something like 30 years at Grandview has advanced to sectional play and you know they’re going to be excited,” the veteran coach said.

“They are a dynamic team with a talented guard who can shoot the ball and a lot of size inside. We are going to have to guard on the perimeter and inside, and that always poses a challenge, but I know our girls will be ready.”

Szopinski has a ready answer for that question.

“If I’m not studying or at practice, I’m on HUDL watching video of Grandview,” Szopinski said. “I want to know as much about them as they know about themselves.

“This season has been so special and we don’t want it to end until we get to state, and we’re going to work hard to make that happen.”