By Kai Raymer (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
It’s easy to call Cade Coffman a gym rat when he literally has a gym inside his own home.
This week, his home away from home has been JQH Arena and Hammons Student Center.
The Mountain Grove senior forward continued a torrid Blue and Gold showing with a 29-point effort Thursday night against Kickapoo, helping the Panthers to a 77-55 win against the Class 5 Chiefs in a Blue Division semifinals matchup.
“First off, I just want to give all the glory to God,” Coffman said. “I dunno… I was just stroking. Connor (McNew) did great. Carter (Otwell) and Hayden (Newberry) had that good defense. It’s just my teammates. They give me great looks.”
For the first time in program history, Mtn. Grove will play for a Blue and Gold Tournament championship. The Panthers meet Class 5 Nixa, which has won 10 Blue and Gold titles, at 7 p.m. Friday at JQH Arena.
The Panthers reached the Class 3 state final four in 2016 and 2017, but only after frustrating losses in the Blue and Gold Tournament both years.
“(Making it to the finals this year) was a goal more for (the players) because they were really disappointed last year,” said Mountain Grove coach Duane Hiler. “We came up here, won one and lost two. The two we lost were heartbreakers, and it kind of stuck in the craw. They really wanted to come back and get into the finals.”
Coffman lit up the Kickapoo defense for a game-high 29 points, 17 coming in the first half as Mtn. Grove led by 10 at intermission.
Coffman’s averaging 26.3 points per game through three games in this year’s tournament. Only 31 players in Blue and Gold history have averaged 25 or more points in one tournament (minimum three games played).
“He’s a gym rat,” Hiler said. “He has a gym at home; they built a small one inside. He works. He has a good work ethic.”
Coffman described the gym as: “It’s a half-court gym with a main goal, 10-foot, and a dunk goal that you can set to any height.”
Mtn. Grove put the game away in the third quarter, outscoring Kickapoo 24-8. Connor McNew scored 16 and Dylan Massey added 11 points for Mtn. Grove, which improved to 10-0.
A 3-pointer and layup by Coffman on consecutive possessions put Mtn. Grove ahead 57-37 midway through the third quarter.
“You look a lot smarter when (the shots) go in,” Hiler said. “They’re good kids and they expect to make them all. They just keep amazing me.”
Freshman Anton Brookshire had a team-high 15 points and senior Tanner Oetting scored 14 for Kickapoo (5-5 overall).
The Panthers will get another chance to take down a big school on Friday. Kickapoo and Nixa have more than four times the enrollment of Mtn. Grove (425 students).
“We’re state-ranked, but it definitely is an underdog (feeling) just because we’re Class 3,” Coffman said. “It’s fun competing against those big schools. We’ll see what we can do.”
Mtn. Grove 77, Kickapoo 55
Kickapoo 14 19 8 14 — 55
Mtn. Grove 19 24 22 12 — 77
Kickapoo – Anton Brookshire 15, Tanner Oetting 14, Elijah Bridgers 7, David Senn 6, Luke Rebmann 6, Sam Wallin 5, Jalen McGarrah 2
Mtn. Grove – Cade Coffman 29, Connor McNew 16, Dylan Massey 11, Carter Otwell 8, Heyden Newberry 4, Gavin Veach 4, Dawson Hiler 4, Noah McCallister 1