Class 5 No. 2 Nixa did not lead for a single second of the first 21 minutes of its home tournament title game against Kickapoo on Saturday.
The more important stat for Nixa was that it did not trail for a single second of the final 11 minutes of the game on the way to a 52-41 win over rival Kickapoo.
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Nothing was going right for Nixa in the first half as the Chiefs jumped all over the host Eagles in front of a packed gym to take a 16-5 lead after the first quarter and a 22-13 lead at the half.
Kickapoo controlled tempo early kept Nixa off balance.
"We were one-for-10 from three in the first half and we weren't attacking. We were taking the first open shot," Nixa head coach Jay Osborne said. "We have to get more aggressive. We were very uninspired the first half."
Nixa star and Missouri State signee Austin Ruder went scoreless in the opening half.
All of that changed coming out of the break.
"We knew we had to come out with some energy and we didn't want to lose on our home court. With Kickapoo being a rival we definitely couldn't let that happen," Ruder said. "I knew it is my job to get us going. Once I made a couple shots we all made shots. It was a real team effort."
Ruder came out on fire as he poured in 13 points in the second quarter to lead Nixa on a 19-5 run for the eight-minute stretch.
As Nixa reeled in the Chiefs during the third quarter, Nixa’s home court advantage started to shine through with a loud home crowd.
"It was a great Saturday crowd," Ruder said. "Once they got into it I think it rattled Kickapoo for a little bit and it really fueled us. I think that was really the turning point in the game."
After only shooting two free throws in the first half, the Eagles upped their aggressiveness and got to the line eight times in the second half and knocked down seven of their attempts.
"It was just a matter of attacking the rim," Osborne said. "We are aggressive and we are athletic and that is our game. We have to get to the rim."
Ruder finished with 20 points, all in the second half to outscore the Chiefs 20-19 by himself in the final two periods.
Kickapoo’s Chris Ward battled down low all night and led Kickapoo with 15 points as the only Chief in double figures.
Third Place: Willard 55, Hogan Prep 46 - CLICK HERE FOR PHOTOS OF THE GAME
Willard jumped out early on Hogan Prep to lead 16-9 after one quarter, but Prep would respond and take a one-point lead at the half. The Tigers clawed back in the third quarter to grab a one point lead and then finished the job by blowing Hogan Prep away 19-9 in the final frame to win.
Hogan Prep played just six players in the game.
Chris Kendrix led the way with a team-high 18 points for Willard. Teammate Kolbe Kinghorn chipped in 14 points. The Rams were led by Amaad Wainright’s game-high 25 points.
Video: Willard 55, Hogan Prep 46