During Thursday night’s 62-58 loss to Liberty North at William Jewell College, William Chrisman boys basketball coach John Vickers saw evidence of his players buying into his philosophy of the Bears playing hard until the final horn.

During Thursday night’s 62-58 loss to Liberty North at William Jewell College, William Chrisman boys basketball coach John Vickers saw evidence of his players buying into his philosophy of the Bears playing hard until the final horn.

Now if only he could get them to buy into his philosophy about the importance of boxing out for rebounds.

According to Chrisman sophomore forward Chris Horn, Vickers told the Bears in the days leading up to Thursday’s game “we’ve got to box out because we’re smaller than all the teams we play against.”

During the first half of Chrisman’s first-round Cardinal Division game in the American Family Insurance Holiday Basketball Classic, Horn said that the Bears didn’t listen to Vickers. But they did during the second half – and that was why they went from trailing by 18 after three quarters to trailing by four during the final minute.

Vickers felt differently.

“Our Achilles (heel) all night was not boxing out and giving them second shots,” he said.

Had the Bears boxed out, “tonight may have been a shocking story,” Vickers added.

However, Vickers suggested the Bears’ failure to box out was worse during the first half than it was during the second.

“Their whole offense in that first half was second shots,” he said. “They hit two shots in a row from the perimeter in the first half and everything else was second shots.”

Overall, the Eagles outrebounded the Bears 37-20. Junior forward Brinkley Jolly led North with 11 rebounds. Zach Starr, North’s leading scorer with 18 points, grabbed six boards, as did Brian Sharp, who also scored 11 points.

Eli Alvis led Chrisman with five rebounds.

Sparked by their dominance on the boards, the Eagles led 16-11 after one quarter and 30-23 at halftime and 52-34 after three quarters. Then, Chrisman chipped away during the fourth quarter. With 59.4 seconds left, Alex Ball sank two of three foul shots for the last of his 19 points to cut North’s lead to four, 60-56. Following two foul shots by Starr with 57 seconds left, Connor McAhan scored a 2-point transition bucket with about 30 seconds left to get the Bears within four for the last time.

Liberty North coach Chris McCabe was grateful to hold on for the win. Still, he was “incredibly disappointed with how we played,” he added.

One principle McCabe hopes the Eagles will buy into is the importance of sticking with their style of basketball. He suggested that wasn’t the case during the second half Thursday, when Chrisman’s aggressive pressing and trapping defense rattled the Eagles, who finished third in the state in Class 4 last season.

“Chrisman didn’t stop playing,” McCabe said. “They were more aggressive for the full duration – and they deserve a lot of credit for putting a lot of pressure on us and making it very difficult for us to hold on.”

Anthony Andrade added nine points and Elyzer Grullon had eight off the bench for Chrisman.

By holding on, North advanced to play Smithville at 1:30 p.m. today in the semifinal at William Jewell. Chrisman will play Hogan Prep at 10:30 a.m. today in the consolation semis.