Chadwick assistant coach Terry Mitchell drew a roar of laughter from the Cardinals during a recent practice when he relayed what kind of intensity he wants to see from them.
“We’re going to have to play like the third monkey on the ramp to Noah’s Ark,” guard Paden Gilbert said, repeating Mitchell’s metaphor.
After the laughter died down, Gilbert took the message to heart.
“It makes sense,” he said.
Chadwick will look to bring forth its third monkey persona Saturday in the Spokane Tournament championship game. The Cardinals advanced to the final with a 68-52 semifinal triumph over Ash Grove on Thursday.
No. 1-seeded Chadwick (14-1) didn’t have much trouble with the Pirates (6-8), but in regard to Mitchell’s third monkey analogy, the Cardinals admittedly at times were on their way to walking the plank.
“At times, we were really good defensively,” coach Shawn Guerin said. “There were stretches where you could see what we are capable of. At other other times, though, I didn’t think we were very good. Our rotations were off a little bit and maybe there were little discipline issues at both ends of the floor. We turned the ball over more than I would like.”
Ash Grove jumped out to a 12-10 lead through the first quarter.
“We came out slow,” Guerin said. “We’ve been like that the last two to three games. I think during our 15-minute warmups I’m going to make them do some non-stop running to get them warmed up.
“It’s just been like that the last three games, so I’m not going to say we’re in a funk with it,” he added. “In the Mountain Grove game (in the Seymour Tournament final), we started off good. I’m not too worried about it, yet. If it continues, we might change something. Once the motor gets going, we finally get started.”
“Sometimes, we play down to our competition,” Gilbert said. “But when we played Mountain Grove, we knew we had to come out and play or they were going to beat us.”
The Cardinals gained the lead on Ash Grove in the second quarter and were up 31-27 at halftime. Gilbert scored 16 of his game-high 24 points in the first half.
Chadwick broke away in the second half. Most encouraging to Guerin was seeing centers Jarin Cunningham and Jaron VanHouden combine for 18 second-half points. Cunningham finished with a dozen points and VanHouden nine.
“Hallelujah, welcome to the party,” was Guerin’s greeting to his big men at the start of a timeout in the fourth quarter.
“In the first half, I didn’t think our ‘bigs’ played good at all. They didn’t finish shots,” Guerin said. “In the second half, that’s when I welcomed them to the party.”
Chadwick’s full-court pressure forced Ash Grove to commit 21 turnovers. It was a figure Guerin was pleased with.
“I think against a typical team that struggles at the guard positions, we can turn you over 25-30 times,” Guerin said. “Ash Grove has a couple good guards. (21 turnovers) is fantastic. We turned Sparta over 35 times. Normally, we wear on teams. Eventually, it just wears on you.”
The Cardinals will face No. 3 seed Reeds Spring (6-8) in Saturday’s title tilt at 6 p.m. The Wolves have won three straight, a streak that includes victories against 13-win Hollister and 12-win Spokane.
“Reeds Spring, with what they have done the last couple of weeks, has really turned it around,” Guerin said. “They’re getting on track and playing well. It ought to be an exciting game.”
Reeds Spring, a Class 4 school with an enrollment of 435, will be the biggest school Chadwick, with an enrollment of 54, meets this season. The Cardinals haven’t faced a bigger school since playing Springfield Central in 2012.
Chadwick 68, Ash Grove 52
ASH GROVE (52) — Moreland 8 0-0 20, Thompson 2 2-4 6, Mooneyham 3 0-0 8, Willmon 2 0-1 4, Delk 1 1-2 3, Nicholson 2 6-6 11. Totals 18 9-13 52.
CHADWICK (68) — Guerin 1 0-0 2, Gardner 2 1-2 6, Cl. Rains 2 0-0 4, Ca. Rains 4 0-0 9, Gilbert 6 10-12 24, Cunningham 7 0-0 14, VanHouden 4 1-2 9. Totals 26 12-16 68.
Ash Grove 12 15 11 14 - 52
Chadwick 10 21 17 20 - 68
3-point goals - Moreland 4, Mooneyham 2, Gilbert 2, Nicholson, Gardner, Ca. Rains.