By Denise Tucker (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
BOLIVAR – It’s always good to be playing your best basketball in March.
And, that’s exactly what the Kickapoo Chiefs are doing.
The Chiefs knocked off Class 5 defending state champion Columbia Rock Bridge 67-52 in a Class 5 quarterfinal Saturday night at Southwest Baptist University, in a rematch of last year’s quarterfinal that the Bruins won 77-57.
On Saturday, Rock Bridge jumped out to a 10-3 lead as Kickapoo couldn’t get anything going in the first. But, that all changed in the second as the Chiefs went on an 8-0 run to tie the game at 10 with 4:10 to go in the quarter.
“I think we were kind of uncharacteristic in the first quarter,” Kickapoo coach Mitch McHenry said. “This is a big game. I thought we kind of played uptight, and it showed by only scoring three points in the first quarter. I thought we relaxed after that. I thought we shared the ball, played together, and played together on offense, which was huge; I think our assist total was really high.
“And, then we continued to guard. I thought we guarded well in the first quarter, we just couldn’t score any points. The second quarter, we got it moving, and in the third quarter, we hit a lot of shots. And, obviously, that helped, when you make shots and continue to get stops. But, making a lot of shots in that third quarter and getting a lead really helped us.”
That momentum began when Cameron Liggins hit a 3-pointer just before the second-quarter buzzer to give the Chiefs an 18-15 lead heading into the locker room.
From that point on, it was all Chiefs.
Anton Brookshire scored all eight of Kickapoo’s points to open the second half and added an assist on a Liggins 3 from the baseline, as the Chiefs pulled out to a 29-17 lead, causing Rock Bridge coach Jim Scanlon to call time out with 5:32 to go in the quarter.
“In the third quarter, we just kind of hit with an avalanche,” Scanlon said. “They just shot great. We’ve never had anybody do that to us, I don’t think, since I’ve been coaching; I haven’t seen that. I’ve never taken three timeouts before in a quarter, and I took three. I didn’t know what else to do. We had to do something tried to stop them.”
Brookshire would go on to outscore the Bruins all by himself, as he hit for 18 points to 14 for Rock Bridge, and the Chiefs opened up a 22-point lead (48-26) toward the end of the third.
“I feel like me and my teammates came together, we trusted each other more, and I feel like our energy was a lot higher going into second half and in the second quarter,” Brookshire said. “So overall, I feel like we trusted each other more and just built on the lead.
“I’m very thankful for my teammates in trusting me. Without them in their roles, and them just believing in me, I felt the confidence wouldn’t be there. I’m just thankful for them. Whether it’s me scoring or benefiting for my teammates, the overall goal is winning and I’m all into that.”
The Bruins began to chip away at the Chiefs’ lead in the fourth, but it was too big of a deficit to overcome.
“In the fourth quarter, we came back,” Scanlon said. “But, in the third quarter, we’ve never witnessed that, or I don’t think I’ve ever been a part anything like that. Give them credit. Their big scorers shot the ball well.”
Brookshire and Liggins led the Chiefs, who improved to 20-9, with 25 points apiece. Next up for Kickapoo will be Christian Brothers College in the Class 5 semifinals on Friday at JQH Arena.
“I feel like we have a great chance,” Brookshire said. “As long as we stay humble, get back in the gym and work, and just keep building on the great things that we’re doing.”
CLASS 5 QUARTERFINALS
KICKAPOO 67, ROCK BRIDGE 52
ROCK BRIDGE 10-5-14-15—52
HELIAS CATHOLIC (24-4) – Xavier Sykes 12, Hudson Dercher 6, Charles Wilson 16, Brant Bowers 13, Cooper Deneke 1, Jacob Ungles 2, Nate Arndt 2.
KICKAPOO (20-9) – Anton Brookshire 25, Carrington Ragan 5, Cameron Liggins 25, Terrell Gladney 6, Elijah Bridgers 6.
Up next: Class 5 semifinals – Kickapoo vs. Christian Brothers College, 9:35 p.m., March 20, at JQH Arena, Missouri State University, Springfield