Future Kansas Jayhawk Mario Chalmers and his Anchorage (AK) Bartlett teammates were hoping for a little better effort on Saturday evening at the Bass Pro Tournament of Champions in Springfield, MO. After getting run out of the gym by the brothers Hansbrough and Poplar Bluff (MO) High on Friday, Bartlett squared off with a traditional national power in Memphis (TN) White Station.
Led by Chalmers 25 points -- 6-12 FG, 4-7 3 PT, 9-13 FT -- six assists and four rebounds, Bartlett led for much of the game before giving up the lead late in the third quarter and falling 60-58.
“My team stepped up pretty good and I’m proud of their effort,” said Chalmers afterwards. “We had a couple of mental mistakes and calls that didn’t go our way at the end and that was the difference.”
After struggling on Friday night, Chalmers came out looking to prove why he is regarded so highly on a national level. A match-up with White Station’s J.P. Prince a 6-6 WG headed to Arizona provided a little fire as Chalmers came out smoking in the first quarter.
The 6-2 guard got a quick steal that he finished by swishing a three pointer from the top of the key and Prince answered with a gliding lefty jam. Chalmers gave Prince a look, streaked down the court and went up in traffic to answer with a jam of his own that bounced off the back of the iron.
Even though he missed the dunk, he’d sent the message that he was ready to play and quickly nailed another pair of threes to finish with 10 first quarter points. All the while, Chalmers and Prince -- who finished with 24 points and eight rebounds -- traded verbal barbs.
“Me and J.P. go back to the summer of last year,” said Chalmers of the chatter. “We’ve got a lot of mutual respect for each other so it was friendly. There wasn’t any down talking or anything like that.”
By halftime, Bartlett had pulled out to a 29-22 lead because they managed to take care of the ball. Unfortunately, the ball-handling problems that bothered them against Poplar Bluff returned in the second half as White Station erased the deficit to take a 44-43 lead heading into the final quarter.
Thanks to a thunderous two handed dunk from Prince, White Station stretched the lead to 49-43 with just over six minutes remaining. At that point Chalmers tried to take the game over.
Scoring 12 of his team’s final 15 points Chalmers -- who only had two turnovers after eight the night before -- attacked the basket, got to the free throw line, nailed a deep three and came up with a steal and bucket with just 1:01 remaining to pull his team to within two points at 60-58.
However, Chalmers was called for his fifth foul on a reach with 30 seconds remaining and his teammates were unable to close the gap.
“I think I played better tonight,” said Chalmers. “It was a good game and we got after it. We should have come out of there with the W.”
Bartlett has one game remaining in Springfield and will play either Republic (MO) High or Webster Groves (MO) High at 1:30 PM.