By Nolan Epstein
Nixa, MO – If Monday night’s contest at Nixa High School provided any indication of what the Ozarks is in for this basketball season, get ready for quite an entertaining ride.
Despite a brilliant performance from Aurora (0-1) senior and future Drury star Emily Parker, the Nixa Lady Eagles (1-0) found a way to hold on at home for a heart-pounding 64-59 victory in the season opener for both clubs.
Nixa, playing its first game without First-Team All-Conference guard Shelby Ewing, nearly let a late lead slip away in the final moments after sitting on a 60-50 advantage with under three minutes to play.
After the Lady Houns put together a 9-0 run to cut the lead to one with 51.5 seconds remaining in regulation, Jennifer Perryman’s team managed to buckle down and score the game’s final four points to seal the tight win – an achievement that seemed to be missing from the script throughout much of last season.
“The difference between this year and last year is that we hung on to win and we fought to win,” said Perryman. “We did what it took to win in the final minute, and I think our youth and inexperience last year helped us get to this point.”
The late Aurora rally was made possible by Parker, who scored 19 of her 36 total points in the second half. Parker, playing in her first game since tearing her ACL in the middle of last season, looked to be back to her old form as she had her way with the Lady Eagles offensively.
“Parker is an unbelievable player,” Perryman said after the game. “She’s probably one of the best in the state. She earns everything she gets.”
The talented senior willed her team to a 22-16 lead at the 5:30 mark in the second period before a hero awoke for Nixa in the form of sophomore sensation Kelsey Biro.
With her Lady Eagles trailing by six, Biro sunk four 3-balls – accounting for 12 of her 14 points in the second period – to help turn the tide and flip a respectable Aurora lead to an eventual 36-32 edge for Nixa as the halftime buzzer sounded.
“Our team was kind of struggling to get a basket, so I just had to step up and get us going again,” Biro said.
While Biro finished the night with 20 points, the Lady Eagles were led in the point column by junior forward Halley Wiggins, who tallied 22 points to go along with 13 rebounds.
Wiggins showed her ability to come up big in the clutch on Monday – dropping in a pair of late layups in the game’s final minute to keep Aurora at bay following its furious run.
“She was huge offensively and defensively,” Perryman added of Wiggins. “Last year she may have passed some of those [shots] out, but this year she was confident and just stuck it right in the hole.
She did exactly what we needed.”
Although Aurora came out on the short end, first-year head coach Trish Marsh was ultimately pleased to know she has one of the area’s most dangerous weapons back – and healthy – for one more run.
“[Parker] can do a little bit of everything and that’s what’s so nice,” Marsh said. “She’s got to keep being a positive leader for us. She just does so many things.”
Nixa’s next test will be a date with Parkview in Springfield on Dec. 5, while Aurora faces Winona on Saturday.
Aurora – 17 15 12 15 – 59
Nixa – 15 21 13 15 – 64
Aurora – Emily Parker 36, Emily Moore 9, Kaylee Huffman 8, Ashley Vaught 3, Cheyanne Eutsler 3
Nixa – Halley Wiggins 22, Kelsey Biro 20, Bissett Michaelson 10, Paige Wells 5, Taylor Arnold 5, Emily Edwards 2