By Kai Raymer (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
About 20 minutes after the game ended, a wide-eyed Anton Brookshire was still trying to process what he had done.
With the score tied at 45 and the clock ticking down, the ball was in Brookshire’s hands.
One ball screen and jump shot later, he would give his team a district championship.
“Whenever I came off the ball screen, I looked up and saw the clock was at five seconds… and it was like one of those dream-come-true moments,” Brookshire said. “I just released it and it goes in.”
In a Hollywood-like ending, Brookshire drained a game-winning 3-pointer with two seconds left in regulation. The shot lifted Kickapoo past Nixa 48-45 for the Class 5 District 11 Tournament championship.
“I practice those shots,” Brookshire said. “I live for these type of moments and I’m thankful for these types of moments.”
Brookshire, a sophomore, also provided defensive heroics as he came up with a steal to give the Chiefs the ball with under one minute remaining.
After milking the clock, Kickapoo got the ball in Brookshire’s hands against Nixa’s man-to-man defense.
“When they went man, I feel like we have players who can make plays,” said Chiefs coach Mitch McHenry. “I felt like we got the matchups we wanted, so we were going to play it out. That’s a consistent shot for (Anton) and a high-percentage shot for him.”
In-bounding the length of the court with 2.1 seconds remaining, Nixa got a decent look on a 3-point attempt but the shot didn’t fall.
The Chiefs outscored Nixa 8-0 over the final two minutes. Kickapoo’s comeback started with a David Senn putback that brought the Chiefs to within 45-42.
After a Nixa turnover, Kickapoo’s Tanner Oetting tied the game 45-all with a 3-pointer from the top of the key.
“Good players make plays and we had two good players down the stretch make some big plays,” McHenry said.
Josh Mason’s 15 points led Nixa, which finishes 15-13 overall. Eight of the Eagles’ 13 losses came by four points or less.
The victory gives Kickapoo its fourth district championship in five seasons. Brookshire suffered an injury late in his freshman season and didn’t play in Kickapoo’s district tournament last year.
“It’s a big achievement for our team,” Brookshire. “We want to cherish this moment and make our teammates, coaches and fans proud.”
When the two teams met in the regular season, Kickapoo overcame a nine-point deficit to slip by Nixa 63-61 on the road.
Thursday night, Nixa led 24-23 at halftime and 36-35 entering the fourth quarter.
“Neither team was going to go away tonight,” McHenry said. “It’s two good teams and two very evenly matched teams. I just told our guys before the game that if you expect (Nixa) to just fold and give up, you need to redirect your mind because it’s going to be a battle and a tight game for all four quarters.”
Thankfully for Brookshire, the Chiefs have a few days until their next game. Kickapoo will face the winner of the District 12 tournament (Republic or Willard) next Wednesday at 6 p.m. at Drury University.
“I’m still trying to take (the game-winning shot) in,” Brookshire said. “It’ll probably take me a couple of days to take it all in. It’ll take me a while to get over this.”
Kickapoo 48, Nixa 45
Nixa 16 8 12 9 — 45
Kickapoo 12 11 12 13 — 48
Nixa (15-13 overall) – Josh Mason 15, Jason Jones 8, Isaiah Engelman 8, Brandon Gordon 4, Luke Roemen 4, Evann Long 4, Ace Akers 2
Kickapoo (21-4 overall) – Anton Brookshire 20, Tanner Oetting 13, Micah McIntire 5, David Senn 4, Elijah Bridgers 4, Cameron Liggins 2