By Dana Harding (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Nixa, Mo. — If perimeter shots are your thing, Tuesday’s clash between Kickapoo (9-3) and Nixa (8-8) represented basketball nirvana.
The Chiefs survived a last-second shot attempt to preserve a 63-61 victory in a contest that featured a whopping 26 3-pointers from both teams.
Kickapoo’s Micah McIntire connected on eight long balls — five in the final quarter, alone — to score a game-high 24 points.
The 6-foot-1 junior was quick to credit teammates for creating repeated shot opportunities.
“I think my teammates just worked really hard to put me in the right positions,” McIntire said. “And I think we got moving the ball really well attacking gaps. Once I started hitting a few, then it just started to feel like I couldn’t miss. I just started feeling good.”
While McIntire’s late storm helped seal the win for Kickapoo — along with 16 3-pointers as a team — the Chiefs trailed for a majority of the game,
Nixa juniors Ace Akers and Evann Long connected on back-to-back 3-pointers late in the first to give the Eagles a 19-13 lead and plenty of momentum heading into the second quarter.
From there, Nixa would stretch its lead to as many as nine.
Midway through the third quarter, a 3-pointer from sophomore Kaleb Wofford completed a 5-0 run to put the Eagles up 39-30.
Kickapoo head coach Mitch McHenry talked about his team having to dig itself out of a hole after slow starts in both halves.
“Unfortunately, we’ve been in that situation a little bit too much this year where we either don’t start very well or get down at some point,” McHenry said, “So, I think it goes towards our maturity and our togetherness to persevere and fight through a deficit but, at some point, we’re going to have to start games better, and we can’t we can’t continue to play out of a hole.”
Fortunately for Kickapoo, its perimeter game hit another gear late in the third, as McIntire, Anton Brookshire and Cameron Liggans all found range from beyond the arc.
A 16-5 run to end the quarter put the Chiefs up 46-44.
Kickapoo’s perimeter success was made possible by Brookshire’s ability to attack the basket and draw help defenders away from open shooters.
McHenry praised the sophomore guard’s performance.
“I think Anton did a great job, because they were keying on him the whole game,” McHenry said. “It really shows his maturity as a sophomore point guard where he doesn’t go in and throw some bad shot up, and that he trusts teammates and found them open to hit big threes late in the game.”
Brookshire finished with 16 points.
The rally continued into the fourth, as McIntire and Tanner Oetting combined for five 3-pointers to give Kickapoo a 61-53 lead — its biggest lead of the game — with only 1:40 remaining.
After weathering the Chiefs’ long-range onslaught, Nixa wasn’t yet ready to concede.
The Eagles were able to mount a late rally, primarily with a 9-for-11 performance from the free throw line in the final quarter.
A Wofford 3-pointer cut the deficit to 63-60 with 44 seconds on the clock, then Luke Roemen hit a free throw to pull Nixa within two at the eight-second mark.
The Eagles attempted to quickly foul on the ensuing inbounds play — and were able to get the ball back after Kickapoo missed its free throw; however, precious seconds were lost in the process.
Nixa head coach Jay Osborne had hoped for a little more time to execute a potential game-winning play.
“We tried to foul with about six seconds,” Osborne said. “And the foul was called at 3.8 — three seconds is huge in that part of the game. I’d like to have seen a foul called with six or seven seconds left there. That gives us time to come up and get a good shot — 3.8 is tough.”
While Nixa was able to get the ball inbounds and up the court, the contested attempt missed the mark and gave Kickapoo the road victory.
Despite the loss, Osborne was able to find positives for his team moving forward.
“Anytime somebody scores 48 points from beyond the arc, they probably ought to blow you out,” Osborne said. “We got beat by two, so it’s pretty promising — the fact that they can’t shoot it any better, and we still had a chance to win the game. We’ll have a chance to play them again, hopefully. Maybe in our tournament, maybe in districts … we’ll see.”
Wofford led Nixa with 24 points on six 3-pointers. He was joined in double figures by Roemen, who scored 11.
Varsity Final: Kickapoo – 63, Nixa – 61
Kickapoo 14 14 18 17 — 63
Nixa 19 15 10 17 — 61
Kickapoo scoring: Micah McIntire – 24, Anton Brookshire – 16, Tanner Oetting – 6, Cross Elmquist – 6, Cameron Liggans – 4, Elijah Bridgers – 3, David Senn – 2, Luke Rebmann – 2
Nixa scoring: Kaleb Wofford – 24, Luke Roemen – 11, Evann Long – 8, Ace Akers – 7, Isaiah Engleman – 6, Brandon Gordon – 3, Jason Jones – 2
Frosh final: Nixa – 65, Kickapoo – 32
JV final: Nixa – 43, Kickapoo – 40