Calvin Rains’ competitive nature knows no compassion.
Whether working through a sweat-soaked practice with a current teammate or engaging in a ferocious, emotion-filled regular-season finale with former teammates, the Chadwick senior guard admittedly can be ruthless.
One wouldn’t have guessed Saturday while watching Chadwick beat Billings, 71-67, that Rains once wore a Billings uniform.
And the frenzied fans on hand will be surprised to learn Rains and the Wildcats’ Colton Plowman are friends, after seeing them repeatedly go one-on-one with gusto.
“I really like Colton. He had a very good game,” said Rains, who played in a summer league at The Fieldhouse in Springfield with Plowman and Billings’ Kyler Tennis, Hayden Fender and Tryton Davis four years ago. “But when we’re out on the floor, we’re not anybody’s friends. After the game, we can go hang out and be best buds.”
Rains holds his practice partners in the same regard.
“You should come to one of our practices,” Cardinals center Jarod VanHouden said. “Good Lord, he’s so competitive it’s crazy.”
“A couple weeks ago in practice, me and (teammate) Paden (Gilbert) got into it. We wanted to kill each other,” Rains said. “That’s just being competitive. Coach says that’s part of basketball, but he also said for us go do that to other teams.”
Rains poured in 15 points versus Billings and paired with VanHouden to help VanHouden enjoy a 20-point performance.
Chadwick (22-3) came back from a 10-point third-quarter deficit to keep from entering the post-season on a three-game slide. Over the past week, the Cardinals fell to Viola, Arkansas, and Golden City.
“We’ve been in a slump and trying to get out of it. We’ve had bad practices and haven’t been playing good, either,” Rains said. “I was starting to get down and everybody else was, too. You could feel it in the locker room. Luckily, we battled this game and came out of our slump before Districts.”
“We had a bad night at Golden City,” coach Shawn Guerin said, referring to an 82-64 loss Friday. “The talk in the locker room before the game today was how would we respond. To have our worst game of the year and and battle like we did today, I’m happy how we responded.”
Chadwick avenged a 66-49 setback to Billings from last season.
“We played them right out of the gate last season and ended this season with them,” VanHouden said. “There’s been a big difference in us between then and now.”
VanHouden turned things around in his face-off with Fender. Last season, Fender outscored VanHouden 12-4. This time around, VanHouden got the best of Fender 20-8.
VanHouden put himself in position to score and Rains put the ball in his hands.
“He’s one of the best passers in southwest Missouri,” VanHouden said of Rains. “He gets the ball where it needs to go, the right place every time.”
“Sometimes, with our ‘bigs’ we throw the ball so dang fast to them and they can’t catch it,” Rains said. “The passes have to be fast, but hit them directly. The pass can’t be off to their side at all or a little high or low. It’s amazing when we try it over and over again in practice and it finally works out in a game.”
The teams combined for 41 fouls resulting in 54 free-throw attempts, but VanHouden was never in foul trouble.
“I tried to stay as straight up as much as I could and make them shoot over the top of me, that’s about all I could do,” VanHouden said. “(Fender) is a tall dude. I wasn’t going to try to go after his shots. I tried to make him shoot over the top of me.”
The game was over the top at times, considering the dramatic swings of momentum on the floor and vocal outbursts in the bleachers by fans on both sides.
Billings jumped out to a 21-12 lead, only to see Chadwick go on an 18-2 run to hold a 30-23 edge. The Wildcats answered with a 23-6 spurt to take their biggest lead, 46-36, at the 6:29 mark of the third quarter. But once the Cardinals gained their first lead of the second half at 60-59, they were on top the rest of the way.
Plowman may have had his best game in a Billings uniform, scoring a game-high 25 points and handling the ball fairly well. But the Wildcats didn’t work the ball to him down the stretch. He had no shot attempts over the final two minutes.
Billings’ 24 fouls and 22 turnovers were too much for the Wildcats (15-7) to overcome.
Chadwick clinched its win by making 11-of-14 free throws in the fourth quarter.
From the opening tip to the final buzzer, fans shouted at the refs and even at each other.
“It’s always fun to play them,” Guerin said. “It was two teams trying to gut out a win.”
“I don’t know where this rivalry came from,” VanHouden said. “I guess you’ll have that anywhere when you have two teams play close like that. With the athletes and the crowd going at it, it was fun atmosphere to play in.”
Chadwick 71, Billings 67
BILLINGS (67) — Henry 3 0-0 6, Newkirk 1 0-0 2, Plowman 10 4-5 27, Davis 1 2-4 4, Tennis 5 2-7 12, Moody 2 4-6 8, Fender 4 0-1 8. Totals 26 12-23 67.
CHADWICK (71) — Gardner 2 6-8 11, Rains 4 4-9 15, Gilbert 5 4-8 15, Cunningham 3 3-4 9, VanHouden 9 2-2 20. Totals 23 19-31 71.
Billings 23 16 17 9 - 67
Chadwick 16 20 18 17 - 71
3-point goals - Rains 3, Plowman 3, Gilbert 2, Gardner.