Jan. 7—William Chrisman clawed back from a 15-point deficit to be within six of Neosho after three quarters of play on Friday at Joplin High School.
Then, Kael Smith fouled out for Neosho and things started to go south as they fell to the Bears 63-60 in a consolation semifinal match in the Kaminsky Classic.
"It made a huge difference," Neosho head coach Zane Culp said. "A lot of teams focus on their guards breaking the press. We get the ball to Kael (Smith) in the middle of the floor and then he makes decisions for us. When he fouled out our staff knew this was going to be really, really hard."
Smith was called for his fifth foul with 2:01 left in the game and the Wildcats leading 52-46. They only scored one point in the final two minutes. The Bears chipped in seven on 3-for-4 shooting at the free throw line and then two layups, one from Aiden Chavez and the other from Trey Taylor to tie the game at 53.
"Yeah, we're tough," William Chrisman head coach Jake Kates said. "We play hard. We're tough. We don't finish well. Our shooting percentage, again tonight, was terrible. But we never stop playing hard so that's what got us back in the game tonight."
William Chrisman charged back from down 15 in the third quarter to outscore Neosho 29-14 in the final 13 minutes of the game and force overtime.
"We just started hitting shots and kept playing really, really good defense and that led to some easier shots," Culp said. "That's kind of what I always say is if you play good defense you'll be more apt to get good shots. Things fell apart a little bit when we started fouling."
Culp added that it was "kind of odd" watching the game unravel the way it did. It looked to him as if his guys were playing from behind despite leading most of the game by the way they started to foul late in the game.
Those fouls led to a plethora of free throw attempts for William Chrisman. The Bears finished the game 21 for 32 from the line; Neosho shot just 14 free ones and made nine.
The Wildcats fell behind 57-53 early in the extra period. But they didn't lay down. Isaiah Green attacked the basket and converted a layup while being fouled. Green cashed in on the free throw for an old-fashioned three-point play.
"It says that they always have it in them," Culp said about his team hanging tough in overtime.
Neosho was over the 10-foul mark for the second half which put William Chrisman in to the double bonus, meaning every foul sent the Bears to the free throw line for two free throws. The Wildcats fouled the Bears' Taylor and he was practically automatic from there all game long. The two charities put William Chrisman up 59-56.
Culp's squad responded immediately with a back-to-the-basket score from Carter Baslee to get within one. But, another foul and Say'V'on Lankford made both free throws to stretch it back to three.
Green took the ball into the lane and converted a finger-role layup to make it 61-60. Neosho committed yet another foul and sent Lankford back to the line where this time he went 1 for 2.
Down two, Green found Baslee on a screen and roll with a clear path to the basket. The senior big man's layup attempt was just a bit too strong as it rolled off the front edge of the rim. William Chrisman corralled the rebound and Neosho sent them right back to the free throw line. This time, Taylor was the shooter and a miss on the second attempt kept Neosho within one possession.
But with just 12 seconds to go and a lot of defensive pressure from the Bears, Green was forced to take a tightly contested 3-pointer on the move that was no good and the clock hit zero with William Chrisman coming away with the win.
Neosho's Smith fouled out with 19 points already and five rebounds. His fellow big, Baslee, added 11 points and nine rebounds. Baslee also picked up his fourth foul with about five minutes to go in regulation. He didn't come back onto the floor until the final eight seconds of the fourth quarter but he also played all of overtime. Baslee had two points in the extra stanza and came up with some key rebounds and defended on some missed layups for William Chrisman without fouling out.
Green also scored in double figures and nearly tallied a triple-double. He got the double-double with 10 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists. One of those assists came on a sneaky pass around a defender to Smith in the second quarter.
The Bears were led by Taylor's 26-point performance; Chavez added 10 for the only other player to score double digits.
Coach Kates mentioned that the Bears haven't been pleased with their overall defensive effort so far in this tournament. They will play Jefferson City for fifth place on Saturday at 12:30 p.m.
"I want to see them finish playing hard and playing together," Kates said. "Even though it's not where we wanted to be, finish our opportunity the best we can.
"We love this tournament. The people who put it on here in Joplin are just fantastic. ... Competition is usually really solid."
Neosho will meet Carl Junction on Saturday at 11 a.m. Culp looks for his team to just continue to grow.
"As far as growth, last tournament and this tournament, we played a really bad game and then turned around and performed well so that's good to see," Culp said.
Saturday will be Neosho's seventh game in 11 days and Culp looks for this slate of games in the Neosho Holiday Classic and Kaminsky Classic to prepare his team well for conference play.