By Kai Raymer (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
It’s always great to play in the Blue and Gold or the Tournament of Champions.
But for the Kickapoo Chiefs, beating Glendale on the Falcons’ home court might be sweeter.
Kickapoo started strong and finished strong in an 80-66 win over Glendale on Friday night. Anton Brookshire scored a game-high 35 and backcourt mate Cameron Liggins added 23 points in front of a raucous crowd at Falcon Court.
“It was really fun. The intensity was crazy,” Liggins said. “My teammates played great and I’m glad we got the win. We won as a team.”
The victory gives Kickapoo a 53-48 lead in the all-time series with their south-side rivals. The Chiefs have won 11 of the last 16 meetings dating back to 2010.
“This game’s always huge because it’s usually dictating district (seeding) or a conference race,” said Chiefs coach Mitch McHenry. “The thing that’s awesome is that no matter what either team has, how good they are or what the situation is, it’s always a great environment.”
The Chiefs (15-8 overall, 8-0 Ozark Conference) sit alone in first place in the Ozark Conference with one league game (vs. Lebanon) remaining.
Kickapoo finally put away a resilient Glendale in the fourth quarter. The Falcons rallied from a 16-point deficit in the third quarter to draw within 56-49.
Liggins’ 3-pointer gave the Chiefs a double-digit lead again and ignited a 12-3 run. He would score eight of the 12, including an impressive three-point play, in the win-clinching surge.
“I have to thank my teammates, because they get me going,” Liggins said. “When I do stuff like that, they hype me up and it makes me play even better.”
Said McHenry: “When (Liggins) is locked in and playing with a high motor, he’s one of the top kids in the area.”
Brookshire helped the Chiefs take a double-digit lead early on. He exploded for 17 points in the first quarter alone and had 24 by halftime.
Glendale mounted a first-half rally as well, cutting Kickapoo’s double-digit lead to just six (38-32) by halftime. The Falcons (13-10 overall, 5-3 OC) got a team-high 25 points from Karter Lowry.
“We came out and guarded at a high level and did what we wanted to do on offense. We executed really well,” McHenry said. “We got a pretty good lead and kind of went into cruise control instead of continuing to be tough, have grit and play through being tired.
“We fully expected it to be a battle, because it usually is in these games.”
Glendale plays at Hillcrest on Tuesday and hosts Jackson next Friday. Kickapoo hosts Lebanon on Tuesday night in a game that could decide the Ozark Conference title.
Should Lebanon win at West Plains on Saturday, it would set up a winner-take-all matchup when the Yellowjackets visit Kickapoo on Feb. 25.
Kickapoo 80, Glendale 66
Kickapoo 24 14 18 24 – 80
Glendale 14 18 15 19 – 66
Kickapoo (15-8 overall, 8-0 OC) – Anton Brookshire 35, Cameron Liggins 23, Elijah Bridgers 8, Micah McIntire 7, Cary Ragan 5, Zach McKinnis 1, Terrell Gladney 1
Glendale (13-10 overall, 5-3 OC) – Karter Lowry 25, Carter Harrell 17, Jack Clinkenbeard 9, Isaac Hill 7, Jackson Osborn 4, Chase Killian 2, Travon Cooper 2