Chrisman stages furious second half rally only to fall just short to Whitfield

Bill Althaus
The Examiner

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — When Gia Moore stepped to the free throw line and hit both shots at 1:39 of the fourth quarter, it marked a turning point in one of the most remarkable comebacks in William Chrisman girls basketball history.

Her Bears trailed 19-4 after one quarter and 37-13 at halftime of Thursday night’s Class 5 Show-Me Showdown semifinal game against Whitfield at Missouri State University’s JQH Arena.

Her free throws cut the Bears deficit to just 48-40. Senior center Jacque David hit another pair of free throws 51 seconds left to pull them within four, 49-45, but coach Scott Schaefer’s team ran out of time as the Warriors held on for a 53-47 victory.

William Chrisman senior guard Gia Moore, right, drives the ball past Whitfield defender Tkiyah Nelson (23) during their Class 5 state semifinal Thursday at LQH Arena in Springfield. Moore scored 12 points as the Bears rallied from a big halftime deficit but fell short 53-47.

The loss ended a 16-game winning streak for the 23-6 Bears, who play Union in the third-place state game at 10 a.m. Saturday at the Hammons Student Center, also on the Missouri State campus.

“We had cold feet that first half and weren’t playing Chrisman basketball,” said David, who finished with 17 points and six rebounds. “It took us the whole first half to play our kind of basketball, and we were in too deep of a hole to climb all the way out, but I am so proud of our girls and how we played the second half.”

An 11-0 Chrisman run to start the third quarter sparked a 14-2 period that pulled the Bears within 39-27 going into the final period.

William Chrisman senior Jacque David, center, is pressured by Whitfield's Tkiyah Nelson, left, Brooklyn Rhodes (11) and Kelsey Blakemore in the lane during Thursday's Class 5 state semifinal at LQH Arena in Springfield. David scored 17 points as the Bears rallied from a big halftime deficit but fell short 53-47.

“It wasn’t really the entire 11-0 run that sparked our confidence,” Bears coach Scott Schaefer said, “it was about 5-0 and I could tell that our girls were playing with more confidence.”

Moore, who was scoreless in the first half, scored seven points of her 12 total points in that stretch, including just the Bears’ second 3-pointer of the game.

Schaefer said he had no magic halftime talk, just a few words from the heart that had an impact on his team.

“I told our girls that just wasn’t us, that’s not who we are,” he said, referring to the first half. “After a half like that, it would be so easy to point fingers – and our players didn’t do that tonight and haven’t done it all year.

“I am SO PROUD of the grit and determination they showed in the second half.”

While 23-4 Whitfield has reached the final four the past three years and four of the last five, this was the first time a Bears team had played in the state championship series since 1993.

William Chrisman senior Jacque David (34) battles Whitfield's Treazure Jackson for a rebound in a Class 5 state semifinal Thursday at LQH Arena in Springfield. David scored 17 points as the Bears rallied from a big halftime deficit but fell short 53-47.

“This was the big stage, and their program has been here quite a  bit and our program hasn’t,” Schaefer said. “Early on, I think we were a little anxious, and we rushed some shots.

“But we addressed those issues at halftime and like I said, I could not be more proud of the way we played the second half.”

Whitfield’s Kelsey Blakemore scored seven of her team-high 17 points in the first quarter to help the Warriors get off to the hot start.

After Whitfield’s JaNyla Bush hit the lone basket of the third quarter, Blakemore added five fourth-quarter points.

Moore added eight rebounds, five assists and three steals to her 12 points. Senior point guard Amanda Szopinski added nine points, five rebounds and four assists and sophomore Mele Taula chipped in seven points for the Bears.

“We didn’t want to lose tonight,” David said, “and that makes us even more determined to win Friday. We learned what state is all about, we did not play well for an entire half, but that will not happen tomorrow.”