For local teams in the Bass Pro Tournament of Champions the three-day event is about the experience and not the outcome.
For Kickapoo in Thursday’s quarterfinal against nationally-ranked Sierra Canyon (Calif.), that experience was seeing Cody Riley firsthand.
The 6-foot-8 junior, and No. 22 prospect in the Class of 2017 according to ESPN, scored a game-high 30 points, to go with 13 rebounds, leading Sierra Canyon to a 63-41 win over Kickapoo at JQH Arena.
“In my opinion Cody is a top 10 player in the country,” said Sierra Canyon coach Ty Nichols. “If you’re bigger he’s going to take you off the dribble and if you’re smaller he’s going to take you down low. He doesn’t care, which is great because sometimes big guys get caught up in trying to be a perimeter guy but Cody just takes whatever he is given based on the matchup. It’s very mature from a young man.”
The Chiefs hung tough early, despite having no answer for the 250-pound Riley.
Back-to-back 3s from Kickapoo junior Jared Ridder put Kickapoo up 13-10 late in the first quarter. Ridder scored eight of his 13 points in the first, but a 4-0 spurt to end the quarter gave the Trailblazers a 14-13 lead after one that they would never relinquish.
“Our guys came out early and hit shots,” said Kickapoo coach Dick Rippee. “We took good shots. I don’t think the crowd or the atmosphere was a factor early.”
Sierra Canyon’s defense took over from there, holding Kickapoo to just 28 points in the final three quarters. The Chiefs didn’t hit a single 3-pointer in the final 24 minutes of play.
“We just said we’re going to guard them,” said Nichols. “In the first quarter we started off in our press and gave up some open looks, which can happen out of a press at times and so in the third quarter we just decided to guard them, stay in front and contest shots.”
Kickapoo shot just 31% from the field and went 2-for-19 from 3. The Chiefs also got outrebounded 39-32.
Offensively the Trailblazers shot a blistering 11-for-18 from the field in the second half after a cold 39% first half.
“Our shot selection in the first half was poor,” said Nichols. “We were 1-for-9 from the 3-point line. In the second half we shot 61% from the field because we took better shots and that was the difference.”
In addition to Riley’s 30 points, senior guard Devearl Ramsey scored nine points and grabbed nine rebounds to go along with a game-high six assists.
Cam Davis scored 11 points to go along with Ridder’s 13.
Sierra Canyon advances to Friday’s semifinal where nationally-ranked Chaminade Prep is waiting. The Red Devils beat Christ the King 67-48.
“This is why we came,” said Nichols. “You play any of these teams and you’re going to get a great game, but we wanted to see the nationally ranked teams and see where we were. Obviously we are down one big man so we are going to a four-guard lineup with one big which creates mismatches on the other end; they have to worry about my speed as much as I have to worry about their size. We are looking forward to competing.”
The loss, the first of the season for Kickapoo, doesn’t change goals for conference, district and state championships. After playing with one of the nation’s best teams for a half, the Chiefs now must refocus and prepare for a quick turnaround with Christ the King.
“Sometimes when you’re disappointed with your performance or your effort it’s a good thing to come back and play the next night,” said Rippee. “You learn a lot about a guy’s character, work ethic and belief in one another. It doesn’t get much easier no matter who you play and that’s how it’s going to be all weekend.”
Sierra Canyon 63, Kickapoo 41
Sierra Canyon 14-17-17-15 – 63
Kickapoo 13-10-10-8 – 41
SC: Riley 30, Martin 9, Ramsey 9, Seiko 7, McBride 5, Graves 2, Washington 1.
Poo: Ridder 13, Davis 11, Thomas-Fontleroy 6, Fowler 4, Johnson 3, Closser 2, Vokolek 2.
Tatum, Cook shine in Chaminade’s rout of Christ the King
The main attraction in this year’s field is elite wing Jayson Tatum, widely regarded as one of the top players in the nation.
He didn’t disappoint.
Tatum finished with 21 points, 16 rebounds and three blocks, helping the Red Devils make quick work of Christ the King 67-48 in the final game of the evening.
“He makes it easy,” said Chaminade coach Frank Bennett. “He’s very coachable and obviously he’s very good. When good players are coachable it makes my life a lot easier. I’m fortunate. He’s an outstanding young man and he’s one heck of a basketball player.”
Chaminade never trailed and held Christ the King to just five first quarter points, grabbing a 17-5 lead after the first quarter.
After a lackluster second quarter, in which Chaminade outscored Christ the King 12-11, the Red Devils responded by scoring 17 of the first 26 in the third quarter.
“I challenged them at halftime to win the first four minutes of the third quarter and they responded,” said Bennett. “Responses are always good.”
Iowa signee Tyler Cook scored 15 points and grabbed seven rebounds for Chaminade. The Red Devils shot 57% from the field and outrebounded Christ the King 36-19.
The Royals received 13 points from Jared Rivers and 12 from junior Jose Alvarado.
Chaminade’s win sets up an epic semifinal matchup between the Red Devils and Sierra Canyon, who rank No. 14 and No. 7 respectively in the most recent USA Today Top 25.
It is unknown if Sierra Canyon will have 6-foot-10 sophomore Marvin Bagley III, who is awaiting clearance from the CIF after transferring to SC on Jan. 2. But, regardless of his presence, Friday’s showdown will feature two of the nation’s best.
“They’re well coach and obviously one of the top teams in the nation,” said Bennett. “They have a couple of really good bigs and we have to have a gameplan for him. Unfortunately we’ll be up late in the night trying to figure that out. I love the challenge, love competition and can’t wait to get out there tomorrow and hope we can play for a championship.”
Chaminade 67, Christ the King 48
Christ the King 5-11-16-16 – 48
Chaminade 17-12-25-13 – 67
CTK: Rivers 13, Alvarado 12, Bright 8, Cleckley 5, Walker 3, Nolan 3, Smith 2, Anderson 2.
Chaminade: Tatum 21, Cook 15, Gladson 7, Olson 6, Crawford 4, Lewis II 4, Hellems 4, White 2, Davis 2, Vrucinic 2.