Mele Taula helps Chrisman bounce back in tournament opener

Cody Thorn
Special to The Examiner
William Chrisman's Mele Taula (20) goes up for a shot in Monday's game against host Savannah in the Savannah Invitational. Taula scored a game-high 19 points to lead the Bears to a 35-31 win.

SAVANNAH, Mo. — Essentially a whole new William Chrisman squad picked up win No. 1 on the season for new girls coach Eric Schroer in the Savannah Invitational on Monday. 

Mele Taula, one of only a few returning players from last year’s fourth-place team in Class 5, scored a game-high 19 points in a 35-31 win over Savannah. 

Taula scored six of the Bears’ 12 points in the fourth quarter. The first was a steal in the front court and a layup on the other end to make it 29-20, the largest lead of the game for either team. 

Her next basket was a putback with 3 minutes left to make it 31-23. After Savannah (0-2) had trimmed the lead down to two possessions with less than a minute left, Taula’s final basket with 35 seconds left made it 35-27 to help the Bears bounce back from a 66-35 loss to Columbia Hickman in last week’s season opener. 

“It felt good, I think we all needed it, the coaches and players,” Taula said. “It feels good to go out and win. We’ve been talking since last week, we really got down on each other and we weren’t staying positive like we should. 

“This week is completely different. We still have learning moments but we didn’t get down. We found new ways to cope with what we were doing.” 

The game was competitive throughout despite Chrisman falling behind 5-0 in the opening minutes. After getting a block on the defensive end, Taula scored to make it 7-7 after the first quarter. 

At halftime, the Bears (1-1) held a 15-14 lead as Taula scored the final points of the first half with 2:54 left.  

The game was tied at 20-20 midway through the third quarter before a layup by junior Lilly Miller broke the tie for Chrisman. Going into the fourth, the Bears led 23-20. 

Jessie Taylor got a steal and scored 21 seconds into the fourth to make it 25-20, giving the Bears their largest lead up to that point. 

“Mele and Miller are the only two that really saw floor time last year so we are really filling all five spots,” Schorer said. “I’m proud of how the girls responded off a little bit of a rough start last Tuesday to rebound tonight and show growth and improvement. 

“I told the ladies a few times, if we can just keep it to one-and-done, they will take shots and they will miss. We will find a way to separate. We made a couple of shots and free throws and got us a little room. Once we got the cushion and handled their pressure, I felt confident we would close it out. There is no ugly or pretty ‘W’ column, it’s just a W. But I will definitely take it in the ‘W’ column.” 

The Bears return to action on Thursday against Smithville at 7 p.m. in pool play in the tournament.  

Last year, two of the team’s seven losses on the season came in the tournament, including one to Smithville.  

The Warriors were a Class 5 playoff team last year that saw the season end in the quarterfinals with a loss to Chrisman.