Parkview coach Bill Brown knew what his squad was getting into Tuesday night. After all, he had coached Kickapoo’s Chris Ward as a freshman.
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However, that was three years ago. Ward, now a 6-foot-5 senior post for Kickapoo, was nearly unstoppable as the Chiefs held off Brown’s Vikings 45-38 in an Ozark Conference showdown.
“He started with us, so I’ve known how much potential he has,” said Brown. “He’s slimmed up, he’s worked really hard to get to where he is, and we knew all along that if he got focused, he’s very skilled as a big player. Conditioning-wise he’s as good as he’s ever been.”
Ward was all of that in Tuesday’s game, leading all scorers with 18 points. He also pulled down 9 rebounds, dished out a pair of assists and swatted a shot or two for good measure.
“I thought he made some nice dump-downs, nice passes against their trap,” said KHS coach Dick Rippee. “He’s a handful inside, no question. He did a good job getting some second-shot opportunities on some offensive rebounds.”
There was a lot of familiarity between the teams on the floor. Rippee was the head man at Parkview from 1998-2002, and Ward - who traded in green and gold for brown and gold after his freshman year - is still close with many of his friends-turned-foes.
“It was big for me, because I played there,” said Ward. “I grew up with (Parkview senior Erik Durham). I’ve known him since preschool and we’re best friends.”
“His family probably hates me right now,” he added.
Ward’s impact on the game could easily be noted by what happened during his absence. Ward picked up his second foul at the 5:17 mark of the second quarter and spent the rest of the first-half on the bench. The result was a 14-6 run by Parkview. That included a buzzer-beating 3 from the left corner by Connor Ratcliff that sent the teams in the halftime break knotted at 21.
Ward returned to the floor to start the second-half and made his presence felt immediately. The big man assisted on two of Kickapoo’s first three baskets in the second-half and came up with a steal as the Chiefs were clinging to a 31-30 lead with less than three minutes to play in the quarter.
He was just getting warmed up. Ward scored Kickapoo’s next 12 points as they started to pull away down the stretch. That included a 4-for-6 performance at the foul line to help put the game on ice.
“Whenever it comes to crunch time, to free throw time, I really try to focus in and take some leadership,” said Ward.
Jack Simpson finished with 11 points for the Chiefs, who improve to 11-4 overall and 2-0 conference play with the win.
“I’m just really happy for our seniors,” said Rippee. “They’d never beaten Parkview. They’d beaten us three years in a row, so that’s a nice team against a really good team.”
Durham finished with 13 to lead Parkview. Post Nathan Reichert added 10, eight in the second half. The Vikings are now 15-3 on the year, 2-1 in the OC.
Parkview takes on Branson Friday night, while Kickapoo spends the weekend in the Nixa Invitational Tournament. The Chiefs are the second seed and open with Harrisonville Thursday night.