Chrisman basketball all-state pick Jacque David ready to pass torch to Mele Taula

Bill Althaus
The Examiner

A symbolic moment took place in the closing moments of William Chrisman's season-ending loss to Union in the Class 5 state third-place game last week.

As the final seconds ticked off the clock and Union began celebrating its 53-43 victory at the Hammons Student Center in Springfield, Bears senior Jacque David and sophomore Mele Taula hugged at midcourt.

"I wonder how many people saw that," an emotional coach Scott Schaefer said as his players hugged and cried and seemed as if they never wanted to leave the court, knowing it would be the last time many of them would ever play together.

"That was a passing of the guard. Jacque has meant so much to this team for so many years – and believe me, practicing against Jacque every day has made Mele a better player. While we're all sad to see Jacque and the rest of our seniors go, we're excited to see what Mele and the other underclassmen bring to our program next year."

More:William Chrisman can't solve Union's Rapert in loss in Class 5 state third-place game

David missed much of last season with an ACL injury that kept her on the sidelines at the start of this season.

With David cheering from the sidelines the Bears were 7-5.

When she returned, they ran off a 16-game winning streak and reached the final four for the first time since 1993. She averaged 13.6 points per game and just over 10 rebounds while being named to the Missouri High School Basketball Coaches Association's Class 5 all-state team earlier this week.

More:Beloved assistant coach Jim Underwood helps Chrisman girls' basketball reach final four

"I know how hard it is to guard Jacque because I played against her every day in practice," said Taula, who averaged 10 points and 7.6 rebounds per game for the 23-7 Bears. "I don't know if I made her a better player, because she was already a great player, but I know she made me a much better player.

"I never faced anyone in a game who was as tough to defend as Jacque. Any success I've had this year is a result of our coaches and Jacque helping every step of the way."

Along with going to state, another special moment for Taula was scoring 11 points and grabbing 10 rebounds in a 65-35 victory over Noland Road rival Truman. It was Schaefer's 600th career win.

More:No. 600: Bears' Schaefer gets milestone win

"We were all so excited about that game," Taula said, "and I was nervous because we were giving him a lot of special stuff after the game, and we signed some of the things, and he didn't know anything about it.

"I was glad when we finally played, because then I couldn't mess up and say, 'Coach, I hope we win your 600th game.' Luckily none of us did, and it was a total surprise."

WIlliam Chrisman's Mele Taula drives to the hoop against Whitfield's Treazure Jackson in a Class 5 state semifinal loss last week. The sophomore forward hopes to take over next season where graduating senior and mentor Jacque David left off in this year;s magical postseason run.

David: 'I can't wait to see what Mele does next season'

That was a special night for Schaefer – one of many special nights during this remarkable season.

"This team is very special," Schaefer said. "All the girls knew their roles and were happy to fill them. There was no resentment or jealousy – all they wanted to do was win."

While David is now gearing up for what she believes will be a special track and field season, as she throws the shot put and discus, she is looking forward to keeping track of the Bears while she is away at college (she has not yet selected a college).

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

"I can't wait to see what Mele does next season," said David, who was the lone Bear to score in double figures at each state game. "It was special – at the end of our final game – to let her know how proud I am of her and that I expect big things from her next year.

William Chrisman senior Jacque David comes out of her final home game late in the fourth quarter of a Class 5 state quarterfinal win against Smithville. David is passing the torch to sophomore Mele Taula, who said David taught her much during their final four season.

"To watch her now, from where she was last year, and at the start of this year, is pretty amazing."

When asked if the torch was passed to Taula, a big smile appeared on David's face.

"Yes, I did pass the torch," David said. "Mele is a very good player now, and in a year or two she is going to be great!"