Posted: Sunday, 10 March 2013 12:45AM

Hickman finishes strong to drop the Chiefs





Kickapoo post player Chris Ward had a monster game in his final high school game for the Chiefs, but the Hickman Kewpies got a series of clutch plays from sophomore Jimmy Whitt and pulled out a 73-68 win in a Missouri Class 5 quarterfinal game on Saturday at O'Reilly Event Center on the campus of Drury University.

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Ward had 28 points on 12-of-23 shooting, and hauled in a game-high 16 rebounds, including nine offensive boards and helped the Chiefs overcome a nine-point deficit in the third quarter. Sophomore point guard Tyson Batiste threw in a shot from beyond half court at the buzzer to close out a 7-0 run for Kickapoo and the Chiefs went to the final frame trailing by two points.
 
Ward, who had been saddled with foul trouble through the first half, inflicted some foul trouble of his own in the second half, sending Rock Bridge senior post player Cecil Williams to the bench with five fouls and two points, while three other players played through four fouls, many of which were picked up trying to slow down Ward.
 
"We just watched some game film and they weren't doubling the post," Ward said. "We knew that going into the game we didn't know about them and they didn't know about us and that's what made it so special. It was like going to war and not knowing anything (about the opponent)."
 
The Chiefs tied the game on a basket by Ward to open the fourth, and later took a brief seven-point lead after consecutive baskets by Ward with less than three minutes remaining.
 
But the Kewpies responded as Doug Johnson hit a pair of 3-pointers to cut the Kickapoo lead to two (66-64), then Whitt took over down the stretch, hitting a tough pull-up jumper with 1:07 to tie the game, followed by a 3-pointer with 45 second remaining for a three-point (69-66) lead.
 
Kickapoo had the ball and a chance to tie or pull within one, but couldn't score and the Kewpies threw over the top of the Chiefs defense for an easy layup. Whitt closed out the scoring for Hickman by hitting a pair of free throws with 3.6 seconds remaining.

Hickman (26-2) advances to play Rockhurst (24-5) in the semfinals of the Missouri Class 5 playoffs at 5 p.m. on Friday at Mizzou Arena in Columbia.
 
"I am very proud of our guys," Kickapoo head coach Dick Rippee said. "We had a nice run there and never gave in and gave up. We were up  seven and just made some bad decisions and missed a couple of free-throws and it snowballed on us a little bit. That is what great teams do is come back and they came back with a lot of emotion and hit some big shots. We forced them to make big plays and they made them."

Whitt, a 6-foot-2 sophomore, led Hickman with 27 points, four assists and four steals. He finished the game 5-for-6 from 3-point range.
 
Ward finishes his high school career averaging 21.4 points per game over the Chiefs final seven games, including big performances against Branson and Nixa in the Missouri Class 5 District 11 tournament. Ward scored 18 and 19 points on 65 percent shooting, then had 11 of the Chiefs 31 points in a 31-30 win over Willard in a sectional playoff game.
 
"We just feel like if anybody tries to guard (Ward) one-on-one he has a big advantage and I thought he did tonight," Rippee said. "I thought Willard did a great job double and triple teaming him but tonight Chris had his way and he gets hit so often inside that you can't call all of them (the fouls). He had a great career and I have never been more proud of any player I have ever coached. From last year to this year he just turned it around as a person. He was always a great player, but what he did as a person I am just proud of him and can't wait to see what he does for the next four years."
 
"It is bittersweet," Ward said. "I am proud of how far I have made it and how far we have came as a team, but nobody wants to lose like that."
 
Ward and Tyler Bussell each played their final games for the Chiefs. Bussell finished with 10 points on 3-of-5 shooting and had six rebounds.
 
Kickapoo (22-7) will return three sophomores who started on Saturday, guards Tyson Batiste, Jack Simpson and Matthew Ridder. The Chiefs also brought in 6-foot-6 sophomore Ryan Burland off the bench. Burland, who was playing his first season of varsity basketball after being home schooled, scored four points and hauled in two rebounds in 11 minutes of action.
 
"You hope they use this situation to make them better basketball players," Rippee said. "You learn as you go and sometimes you can gain more by losing. It stings a little bit, but you figure out there are some things you have to do differently. We wish we could go back and play those last three and a half minutes but we aren't able to do that. It is what it is and it's not because we didn't try. Our guys tried all season long and it has been a privilege to coach them and it's been one of the best years I've had as a coach. The young kids will come along and hopefully they will use this as a stepping stone to make them better players to make them a better team."

Missouri Class 5 quarterfinal
HICKMAN 73, KICKAPOO 68
on Saturday, at Drury University
 
Kickapoo 18  15  19  16 — 68
Hickman 19  14  21  19 — 73
 
Kickapoo (22-7) — Tyson Batiste 13, Jack Simpson 1, Chris Ward 28, Tyler Bussell 10, Matthew Ridder 12, Ryan Burland 4.
 
Hickman (26-2) — Jason Murray 8, Cecil Williams 2, Chris Clark 16, Jordan Jones 7, Jimmy Whitt 27, Jerrion Nelson 2, Doug Johnson 9, Deandre Pennington 2.

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