One year after the Rolla Bulldogs ran away with an Ozark Conference showdown against Kickapoo, the Chiefs turned the tables on Tuesday, defeating Rolla in Springfield, 76-65.
But it didn't come easy.
Kickapoo, the No. 4 ranked team in the latest Missouri Class 5 poll, opened up a big lead in the first half thanks in part to a hot start by junior guard Cam Davis and an ice cold Rolla team.
Davis scored nine points in the first quarter after entering the game at the four minute mark and the Chiefs led 24-9 at the end of the first quarter, and were ahead 31-10 at one point in the second.
With Senior Night to be celebrated, Kickapoo started seniors Derrick Roberson, Kyle Giefer, Hayden Schmitz, Riley Herron and Mike Fowler and those five were tied with Rolla with 4:30 to play when Kickapoo head coach Dick Rippee put his starting five in the game for the first time.
The Chiefs immediately took control as Kickapoo, led by junior Cam Davis' nine points, outscored Rolla 16-2 and closed out the first quarter holding a 24-9 lead.
"It's great for those guys (the seniors) to come in and instantly contribute," Davis said. "In the first half we didn't have slippage. Those guys came in and gave us instantly energy and when we rotated, we kept pace perfectly. Whenever our depth kicks in, we have the chance to be something really special."
The Chiefs led by 19 at the half and appeared to have it on cruise control in the third quarter, only to see Rolla take control of the game midway through the third quarter.
Rolla held Kickapoo scoreless for the final five minutes of the third, including the Chiefs final eight possessions of the frame. On the other end, Rolla trimmed a 57-38 Kickapoo lead all the way to 57-50 entering the fourth quarter.
“The third quarter was a rough stretch," Ridder said. "Shots weren’t falling for us and we weren’t really playing as a team. It is something that we will need to do in the future in order to win, but if we can play as a team we will be great.”
Over that stretch, Rolla knocked down three 3-pointers and got eight points from 6-foot-5 senior forward Sam Marshall.
“It wasn’t really anything that I said (at halftime), it was really the courage that our guys showed and I am proud of them for that,” Rolla head coach Mark Miller said. “It was two great ball clubs going at it. We were cold at the beginning and they were knocking down shots. We couldn’t stop their drive at the beginning of their game, and they were rushing our shots because they are so athletic.”
The Bulldogs cut the lead to five (60-55) early in the fourth quarter on a layup by senior Zach Brown early in the fourth.
But down the stretch, Kickapoo pulled away and secured the win at the free throw line, making 6 of 8 over the final 1:57 to hold on for the win. With the victory, Kickapoo is now 22-2 overall and 8-0 in the Ozark Conference with just one league game against Waynesville on Friday remaining.
"This win was one we needed to get,"Davis said. "We were happy with our performance, but not satisfied at all. Coming in, we set a goal of being OC champs, and now that we have a chance to bounce back from last year and win it outright, is something that our guys want very badly."
Rolla got a game-high 19 points from Marshall and senior point guard Kobe Wands and Logan Short chipped in 14.
"This was one of the most talented teams we played all year," Davis said. "Give them credit. This was a big win for us, and it gives us confidence that we can reach the goals we have set for ourselves in the postseason. Everyone contributed tonight, and whenever the team plays that well, everyone's confidence spikes an everyone is engaged."
Despite the loss, Miller said the experience of playing one of the state's premier Class 5 teams tight in the second half will only pay dividends down the stretch.
“We probably won’t face a team that’s quite that good again this season. This is as nice of a team that you will find in the state of Missouri. These guys can play with anyone and I give them credit, but I am proud of our guys for hanging in there and making a game out of it in the fourth quarter.”
NOTES: The junior varsity game between Kickapoo and Rolla went into double overtime and was captured by the Chiefs, 83-77. Kickapoo freshman Donyae McCaskill led all scorers with 29 points in that game.
High school boys' basketball
KICKAPOO 76, ROLLA 65
on Tuesday, at Rolla
Rolla 9 18 23 15 — 65
Kickapoo 24 22 11 19 — 76
Rolla (22-2, 7-1) — Kobe Wands 19, Zach Brown 5, Sam Marshall 19, Logan Short 14, Nick Janke 4, Josh Pritchett 5.
Kickapoo (22-2, 8-0) — Derrick Roberson 7, Hayden Schmitz 2, Micahel Fowler 3, Niekie Thomas-Fontleroy 9, Isaac Johnson 16, Cam Davis 17, Travis Vokolek 4, Jared Ridder 18