The Norm Stewart Basketball Classic is a performance platform like no other for high school teams that runs much deeper than the respect and admiration these players and coaches have for the events namesake.
What makes this opportunity so special is everything involved both big and small. For some, that means playing at odd times because of the 24 games in 48 hours format on a National Association of Intecollegiate Athletics approved court at host Columbia College. Others like the fact that all of the contests are broadcast on ESPN3, and while last year only the winning coaches did a nationally televised postgame interview, this season the MVP of each game also earned that accolade.
For the Community R-6 girls, its role in this Coaches Vs. Cancer fundraiser took place at 6 a.m. on Saturday, and after taking a 16-10 lead at the end of the first quarter, the squad kept steadily pulling away to beat Harrisburg, 56-33.
"In order to get ready for this game we watched some film on Harrisburg and we played a 6 a.m. game on Friday to get used to playing at this time of day," said Bob Curtis. "We also did a walk-through on what Harrisburg was going to do to us and what we wanted to do against them, which was beneficial. Then we came here and watched some games and had some team bonding. We were more prepared for this game because it was at 6 a.m. It's not typical to be playing as the sun comes up."
In the second Harrisburg began by going on a 6-3 run that came to a screeching halt at 2:35 after Kyla Heuer hit a pair of free throws. In fact, it was just 10 seconds later that Alissa Curtis connected twice from the charity stripe for CR-6 followed by a basket from Natalie Thomas, who scored 12 for the game with six rebounds and four steals. When Alissa Curtis then split a set of free throws and Morgan Bryant and Thomas each hit field goals, the Lady Trojans went into halftime leading 30-16.
"The girls tried to get some extra possessions from our press because it's hard to get the ball in the rim at 6 a.m. We knew we wanted to outshoot them and outrebound them, and I think we did 48-30," Bob Curtis said. "We picked up five or six fouls in the first quarter, so in the second we were handcuffed by the fact we couldn't pressure on defense as much. We also didn't want to put Harrisburg on the free thow line because that stops the game and allows them to catch up. They made some shots, though."
Because CR-6 began the third by scoring six-straight on a basket by Chelsea Hoyt and two from Thomas, Harrisburg was forced to call a timeout at 6:25. While the Lady Bulldogs did then chart six of the next eight points, that's only because Alissa Curtis allowed it. Once she'd had enough, the senior scored eight straight for the Lady Bulldogs, the last of which came at :22 by making the first of two free throws, to help the Lady Trojans extend their advantage to 46-25 heading into the fourth.
"In the second half we got into our diamond press and started getting some easy layups. Once we got the lead from 14 to 20 points we kind of relaxed," said Bob Curtis. "With all the things that go into this game we wanted the kids to get comfotable and in the third they did instead of getting nevous and missing shots. We shot 27 free throws, but in our home opener we shot close to 40 three-pointers, and that's too many. We've got to get fouled, make layups and go to the free throw line."
That same theme was just as prevelant in the final quarter, as well, as CR-6 outscored Harrisburg 10-8 to win by 23. On an individual note Alissa Curtis was given the game MVP award named after former Mexico head coach and Norm Stewart assistant coach Gary Filbert. For the game she had 19 points, six rebounds, five steals and made 10-of-14 free throws. Delaney Bowers also had six points and six boards and Chelsea Hoyt added four points for CR-6 to up its record to 3-1 overall for 2017-18.