By Denise Tucker (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Luke Roemen knew he had to redeem himself.
After a missed assignment that allowed Willard’s Dominic Hauck to hit a 3-pointer to send the game to overtime, and then getting an earful from his coach, Roemen stepped up in the extra session and scored six points to lift the Nixa Eagles to a 67-65 overtime conference victory over the host Tigers on Tuesday night.
“My heart sank,” Roemen said. “I didn’t even see the basket go in. I heard it, and I was like, ‘Oh, no.’ We were supposed to be switching on all screens, and I didn’t see the screen, so I didn’t switch. And, when I tried to go and cover it, it was too late, and he had already shot it.”
Roemen could have hung his head, but instead took on the challenge in overtime by scoring six points, including two free throws that kept the Tigers at bay.
“I had to redeem myself,” Roemen said. “I felt like I had something to prove after letting my team down on that (Hauck) shot, so I just tried to do everything I could to make sure that we could win.”
Which he did, almost right away, in overtime. Carson Young connected with Roemen on a high-low play – not just once, but twice – to give Nixa a 62-59 lead. His two free throws, which fouled out Willard’s high-scoring junior Daniel Abreu with 1:12 to go, put the Eagles up by four (64-60).
Ace Akers scored to give Nixa a 66-60 lead, but Willard’s Riley Young banked in a 3-pointer from the top of the key to pull the Tigers within three (66-63), and coach Jeremy Dresslaer called time out with 9.5 seconds to play.
Willard fouled, but Nixa missed its free throws and called time with 8.5 remaining. Then, Nixa fouled sending Riley Young to the line. He sank both of his free throws to make it a one-point game (66-65). A Willard foul put Isaiah Engelman on the line, where he hit 1 of 2 (67-65). The Tigers got a shot off at the buzzer, but it fell short as Nixa held on for the win.
Nixa’s game plan going in Tuesday night, was to limit what Abreu could do. The Willard standout was coming off games of 34, 38, 24, 29 and 21 points, which included breaking the tournament scoring record during the 73rd Blue & Gold Tournament, with 125 points, just over a week ago.
The Eagles ran a box-and-one on Abreu, holding him to just two field goals. The rest of his 14 points came from the free-throw line.
“That was the entire game plan,” Nixa coach Jay Osborne said. “Evann Long, with a little help at times, held him to two field goals. Mission accomplished.
“Credit (Willard). We had them beat and they hit some big shots; kid hit a big shot at the end of regulation. With better coaching, we probably would have just fouled him and not let him get a 3 off, so that’s on me.
“But, I like how our kids are playing. They’re playing hard; they care; they’re fighting. We’ve just got to do a better job of taking care of the ball.”
Even though his team lost the heartbreaker, Dresslaer was proud of how his team fought to overcome 11-point deficits – four times.
“We started making plays toward the end, and I’m not upset about this loss,” Dresslaer said. “I think Coach Osborne is one of the best coaches in the area. We battled back, we competed and we’re going to see them again in two weeks, hopefully, in their tournament. I really think we’re going to get a lot better.
“We didn’t roll over. Down 11, four different times, and came back. That shows a lot of our character and where we’re headed. We’re not going to judge our success on our win-loss column. We’re going to see how we can become the best team we can become, and tonight made us a lot better.”
Willard’s Maurice Grayer led all scorers with 23 points, including 10 in the third quarter. Abreu added 14 and 13 rebounds, and Hauck chipped in 10 points for the Tigers, who fell to 7-5 overall.
Nixa, which reached .500 at 7-7, was led by Roemen’s 21 points, Wofford’s 14 and Akers’ 13.
NIXA 67, WILLARD 65 (OT)
NIXA (7-7) – Evann Long 8, Ace Akers 13, Carson Young 2, Kaleb Wofford 14, Luke Roemen 21, Jason Jones 4, Brandon Gordon 4, Isaiah Engleman 1.
WILLARD (7-5) – Maurice Grayer 23, Riley Young 7, Dominic Hauck 10, Nathan Bushnell 3, Daniel Abreu 14, Caden Mowell 3, Cole Oedewaldt 5.
Nixa B 51, Willard B 27