“There’s nothing better than winning this first game,” Kickapoo sophomore point guard Jack Simpson said. “I’ve been waiting and waiting for this, and checking off the calendar so it is nice to finally play.”
From the opening seconds, Kickapoo’s defense was the highlight of the night. This season, the team has implemented a full-court, constant pressure defense that they expect to benefit them greatly like it did tonight. Simpson was the catalyst for the team defensively along the perimeter.
“We were trapping the ball and creating havoc for them and that helped us score easily,” said Simpson.
Many of the turnovers Kickapoo forced resulted in transition lay-ups, which accounted for a majority of the Chiefs’ scoring in the first half.
After the first quarter, Reeds Spring trailed Kickapoo 21-4. The Wolves’ offense was not prepared to handle the sort of defenses that Kickapoo was throwing at them. For Reeds Spring in the first half, the shots were not falling, turnovers were a bad habit for the team, and their defense couldn’t find a way to stop the Chiefs’ offense.
Junior guard Skylar Murphy gave the Wolves some life in the second quarter, hitting three 3-pointers to help give his team momentum.
However, Kickapoo’s young guard of their own, sophomore Matt Ridder, answered every shot Murphy took. Ridder also knocked down three 3-pointers in the second period, keeping a solid point differential between the two teams.
“What impressed me most was that he (Ridder) missed his first three pointer but he kept shooting,” said Kickapoo head coach Dick Rippee.
At the half, Kickapoo lead Reeds Spring 44-17. The Chiefs’ game tempo and intensity was proving hard to match by the Wolves’ as players began picking up fouls and committing bad turnovers.
“We knew we were in for a great challenge with Kickapoo,” said Reeds Spring head coach Barry Yocom. “We got off to a slow start, missed shots we shouldn’t, and they are hard to beat on their home court. Also we can’t have so many turnovers because that was half their offense.”
Though leading by 27 points at the half, Kickapoo knew that they had to keep the pressure on the Wolves offensively and defensively in the second half. Chiefs’ senior center Chris Ward scored two quick buckets in the third quarter to compliment an early three-pointer from Simpson and a lay up by junior Parker Dean.
Ward was a strong presence throughout the night for his club, providing a big body in the paint to contest shots, grab rebounds, and score against the big men of the opposing team. One of just four returning varsity players from last year’s squad, Ward will have to give the team some much needed leadership.
In the game, Ward scored 14 points, totaled six rebounds, and had three assists. He was also one of many Chiefs that helped in shutting down Reeds Spring senior forward Austin Selby. Selby had just seven points and nine rebounds to go along with three assists.
“We just wanted to be sure to make it tough to pass to him (Selby) all night,” said Rippee. “I thought our ball pressure all night was good and so was our entire defense really.”
With a near 40-point lead heading into the final quarter, the Chiefs’ bench and role players got the majority of the remaining time. Though they were not lighting up the scoreboard like the first team offense was, their defense was just as good. Playing against many of the starters for the Wolves, they limited them to just a single made shot in the fourth period; a three pointer from Murphy with just over a minute remaining in the game.
“We saw bits and pieces and some flashes of our ability tonight but we have to figure out how to put it all together,” said Yocom. “We are a work in progress but we are building brick by brick.”
Now that both teams have their first game under their belts, they are hoping to be prepared for more quality talent in the remainder of the 2012 Tip-Off Classic, which runs through Saturday. Friday, Reeds Spring will face Mitchell (Memphis, Tennessee) and Kickapoo will face Springdale (Springdale, Arkansas).
Kickapoo Scoring: Chris Ward 14, Jack Simpson 14, Matt Ridder 13, Tyler Bussell 9, Kyle Campbell 9, Parker Dean 4, Tyler Hamilton 3, Anthony Cooper 3, Luke Thomas 2, John Fuchs 1
Reeds Spring Scoring: Skylar Murphy 14, Austin Selby 7, Josh Kent 3, Cooper Gosch 1