Nixa outlasted Hillcrest in a fast-paced out of conference battle to earn their second home win of the season by a score of 63-58 Thursday night.
Senior guard Austin Ruder lead the Eagles in scoring with 21 points while collecting five rebounds and three assists in a back and forth contest that stayed within a three-point margin for most of the game’s final two minutes.
“I came out wanting to contribute, be a team player, and get the W,” said Ruder. “We did a decent job defending from the wings but Hillcrest was pretty on tonight.”
Ruder capitalized on a Hornet miss by driving hard to the basket and putting the Eagles up 55 to 51, but Darnell Green-Beckham (11 points, four rebounds) banged in a 3-pointer to keep the game close as the clock ticked closer to the end of regulation.
The fourth quarter’s action mirrored the game’s start, as Nixa and Hillcrest exchanged leads over five times in the first half in a first quarter where the Eagles trailed by two points after fast 6 to 2 start, but managed to take a 34-32 lead over the Hornets at halftime.
“All of their kids can take the ball off the dribble; all of their kids can shoot the ball really well,” said Nixa coach Jay Osborne of the Hillcrest roster. “Defensively we’re going to have get better challenge shots better in our next games.”
Both Osborne and Ruder credited their home fans with creating a loudly positive atmosphere in the night’s contest.
Roy Hardy (seven rebounds, one assist) and Austin Petry (four rebounds, one steal) lead Hillcrest in scoring with 14 points.
“We knew we were going to struggle guarding their bigs, by putting five guards on the court,” said Hillcrest coach John Schaefer. “I was proud of the way our kids played tonight … [but] when a team is that much larger than you are the margin for error is really small.”
Hillcrest will enter 2013 with a 5-3 record and be matched up with Glendale on Friday, Jan. 4. Nixa will begin play as the Blue division number one seed against Ava in the opening round of the Blue and Gold on Dec. 26.