By Matt Turer — firstname.lastname@example.org
Springfield, Mo. — Jared Ridder treated Kickapoo fans to one last vintage performance in his hometown.
Playing at the O’Reilly Family Event Center at Drury University, just 14 minutes from Kickapoo High School, the senior forward scored 28 points to help the Chiefs explode past Nixa 79-46 Wednesday in the Class 5 sectionals.
From here on out, Ridder and Kickapoo’s senior class is done in Springfield. Now, the state quarterfinals in Bolivar await in a matchup with Rock Bridge (22-4) on Saturday. That quarterfinals berth was in question for most of the first half before Ridder and the Chiefs flipped a switch and lit up a 33-7 run that lasted into the fourth quarter.
It was Kickapoo (24-4) that trailed Nixa (25-4) 27-24 after a Seth Viebrock 3-pointer late in the second quarter, but a 7-0 Chiefs run to end the half sent Nixa spiraling.
“You go on a run like that, you’ve got some guys that can make baskets,” Kickapoo coach Dick Rippee said.
For Kickapoo Wednesday, some big baskets came from some less-advertised names. Ridder had his 28 and Cam Davis finished with 17 of his own, but it was the 13 points from Isaac Blakeslee, the seven from Corey Dye and the six from Donyae McCaskill, including a pair of powerful dunks, that was the difference during Kickapoo’s dominant second half that saw it outscore Nixa 48-17.
“Obviously people will notice [Davis and Ridder], and deservedly so, but when our team is playing its best is when you get contributions from Vokolek and Blakeslee and McCaskill and Dye,” Rippee said. “When we’re at our best, we’re not really caring about who scores, we’re just trying to get the best shot for Kickapoo.”
Neither team made a field goal for nearly four minutes to open the game, with the Eagles and Chiefs combining for an 0-14 start from the floor before a Ridder 3 put Kickapoo up 4-3.
Scoring opened up in the second quarter with the teams combining for seven 3s and 39 points, the highest total of any quarter Wednesday.
“I thought maybe our shot selection got a little better,” Rippee said. “I thought [while we were struggling that] maybe we weren’t going side-to-side with our offense. I thought we just were settling and maybe forced the issue a little bit. I thought we got more patient [in the second quarter], then of course you start making shots.”
Nixa senior Christian Bundy got in foul trouble early and sat most of the first half, finishing with only six points. The Eagles were led by Braeden Combs, who finished with 13 but had only three points in the second half. Seth Viebrock scored 10 for Nixa.
“We felt good at halftime,” Nixa head coach Jay Osborne said. “Two good teams going at it, one team makes a lot of shots and the other misses a lot of shots, it’s going to turn out how it turned out tonight. That’s all I have to say about that.”
Kickapoo previously beat Nixa by four in a 61-57 road final on Jan. 20.
An early Bundy bucket in the third quarter pulled Nixa within two points, but the Chiefs responded with a 19-0 run that lasted until the 1.5-minute mark of the quarter and put Kickapoo up 50-29. Nixa would pull within 20 just once more the rest of the night.
“I’m not going to let one loss determine how I feel about this team and about our season,” Osborne said. “We had a great season. Really proud of our seniors. I don’t really want to talk about tonight. They made shots, we didn’t. We couldn’t stop them the second half. It’s not rocket science. It’s two plus two.”
This is Kickapoo’s second consecutive year in the Class 5 quarterfinals. The Chiefs fell to Chaminade 72-59 in last year’s state title game.
FINAL: Kickapoo 79, Nixa 46
Nixa — Braeden Combs 13, Seth Viebrock 10, Austin Bracker 7, Christian Bundy 6, Evan Bergmann 5, Nathan Elmer 3, Isaiah Engleman 2
Kickapoo — Jared Ridder 28, Cameron Davis 17, Isaac Blakeslee 13, Corey Dye 7, Donyae McCaskill 6, Samuel Wallin 3, Mitch Closser 2, Tanner Oetting 2, Travis Vokolek 1