By Mark Schremmer
Globe Sports Writer
The Joplin Eagles were displaying a mixture of joy and disappointment.
Joy stemmed from Joplin’s 69-64 victory over the William Chrisman Bears in the first round of the Kaminsky Classic on Thursday at Missouri Southern’s Robert Ellis Young Gymnasium. Disappointment resulted from allowing a 14-point lead in the fourth quarter to dwindle to five.
“We played good on offense,” said Joplin junior point guard Charlie Brown, who led all scorers with 29 points. “But we got to get better defensively. We got to get better at closing teams out.”
The Eagles led the entire way, but they were never able to put the game out of reach. Joplin (5-2) held a 47-39 lead at the end of the third quarter and was able to extend it to 54-40 with 5:26 remaining in the fourth. However, the Bears were forcing turnovers with pressure defense and were forcing Joplin to foul. William Chrisman (2-7) made 10 of 13 free throws down the stretch to outscore the Eagles 24-15 in the final 5:26.
“They outplayed us in a quarter,” Joplin coach Jeff Williams said. “Our goal was to win every quarter. I thought we could have and should have won by double figures.”
That’s not to say there weren’t positives. Joplin opened its home tournament with a victory and advanced to the semifinals at 7 p.m. today against Francis Howell, a 59-52 winner over Word of Life on Thursday.
“You always want to do well at your home tournament,” Williams said. “We’re in the semifinals and that’s where we wanted to be after today.”
The Eagles received another strong offensive performance from Brown, who scored 18 of his 29 over the second and third quarters. Brown also set up several baskets for inside players Tucker Wallace and Adam St. Peter, who scored 12 and 10 points respectively.
“Charlie’s getting better in a lot of areas,” Williams said. “He takes on a lot of pressure, because teams know that he’s our best player. He’s still able to do well. But he can get even better. We’re all about improvement.”
Alex Ball, who scored 13 points in the fourth quarter, led William Chrisman with 17. Brett Pendergrist added 14 for the Bears.
William Chrisman moves into the consolation bracket and will face Word of Life at 4 p.m. today.
Joplin will face a Francis Howell team that won its first game of the season on Thursday.
“They’re a well coached team,” Williams said. “We’ll have to play well.”