By Kai Raymer (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
In big games – and they’ve played in a lot of them this season – the Kickapoo Chiefs usually find a way.
It happened again Thursday night.
Kickapoo withstood multiple Nixa rallies in the second half to prevail 57-45 in the Class 5 District 11 Tournament title game at Parkview High School.
Guards Anton Brookshire and Cam Liggins scored 19 apiece to help the Chiefs (18-9 overall) repeat as district champions.
“We’ve had our ups and downs, but our players have stuck together and done their job,” said Chiefs coach Mitch McHenry. “Really, in the biggest games, they’ve answered the call. And that was another one tonight.”
Kickapoo has won nine straight against Nixa dating back to the 2015-16 season.
“They’re a good opponent (Nixa), but I love to beat them,” said Kickapoo senior guard Elijah Bridgers, who finished with eight points.
Kickapoo faces Joplin in the Class 5 sectional round at 7:45 p.m. March 11 at Webb City High School. Kickapoo lost 64-60 at Joplin in late January.
“Going in, our guys wanted to get this done tonight (against Nixa). But they’ve also had the vision of playing multiple games in March,” McHenry said. “Not just this one.
“That’s going to be our focus going forward. We’ll enjoy this tonight then try to get another (win) next week.”
The Chiefs have gone 9-2 since losing to Joplin.
“Our chemistry wasn’t as good as it should’ve been at the beginning of the season,” Bridgers said. “Now, we found our chemistry and we’re playing harder. We’re just ready to keep winning.”
The Chiefs never trailed in the second half, but Nixa (21-7 overall) never went away until the final minute.
Kaleb Wofford’s 3-pointer brought Nixa within 44-41 in the fourth, but Kickapoo extended its lead back to six.
Later, Liggins had a pivotal three-point play to make it 51-44 Chiefs with under two minutes to go.
“We did a great job, all night, of answering (Nixa’s) runs,” McHenry said. “We were always able to put together some stops and get some buckets on the other end.”
Sophomore Colin Ruffin scored a team-high 16 for Nixa. The Eagles had won seven straight entering Thursday’s matchup.
Kickapoo closed the first half on an 11-0 run. Brookshire sparked the run with a 3-pointer, then Liggins made back-to-back treys to give the Chiefs a 29-20 halftime lead.
The victory marks Kickapoo’s 23rd district/regional title in program history. The Chiefs have won six district titles since the 2012-13 season.
“Winning doesn’t get old,” McHenry said. “You really appreciate that. We’re in a program that’s been really successful, but you appreciate these type of games. And you appreciate any district you win.”
Kickapoo 57, Nixa 48
Nixa 14 6 13 15 — 48
Kickapoo 17 12 11 17 — 57
Nixa (21-7 overall) – Colin Ruffin 16, Josh Mason 10, Jason Jones 7, Kaleb Wofford 5, Evann Long 4, Kael Combs 2, TJ Sorgenfrei 2, Colten Berry 2
Kickapoo (18-9 overall) – Anton Brookshire 19, Cam Liggins 19, Elijah Bridgers 8, Cary Ragan 6, Micah McIntire 2, Zach McKinnis 2, Terrell Gladney 1,