In a potential trap game for Kickapoo, Waynesville came to Springfield to give a challenge to the Chiefs. Kickapoo, lead by senior Chris Ward, was able to hold on in the fourth and defeat the Tigers, 56-48.
Waynesville was able to stay with the Chiefs in the opening quarter of play, and started the game on a 5-0 run. However, Kickapoo was able to rally over a five-minute span, and go an 8-0 run to take the lead. After Waynesville senior Ethan Howser hit three three-pointers in the first quarter, the Tigers held onto an 11-10 advantage going into the second.
“They have a very good team and a lot of young guys that are very athletic and have height in areas where we don’t,” said Kickapoo head coach Dick Rippee. “I was proud because we had a slow start and a couple empty possessions but were able to battle back.”
Chris Ward was able to build up his game as the contest progressed. The second quarter is when he began dominating the paint, offensively and defensively. By the end of the period, Ward had totaled 10 points. Ward was key to Kickapoo outscoring Waynesville 16-9 in the quarter, and heading into the half with a six-point lead.
“Chris is an man inside and does a lot of good things inside to help the team, whether that is getting offensive rebounds or passing out from the block,” said Rippee.
Other keys to Kickapoo’s success were senior Tyler Bussell knocking down two three-pointers. The sophomore backcourt trio of Tyson Batiste, Matt Ridder, and Jack Simpson created havoc for the Tigers, constantly forcing turnovers and allowing the offense extra possessions.
Kickapoo was able to continue its momentum into the third quarter, pacing the game on both ends of the court and forcing Waynesville to primarily stay in a half-court offense. Neither Kickapoo nor Waynesville went deep into their bench for production, as both went only seven players deep in the game. The fatigue began showing at times for both teams, but the Chiefs were able add four more points to their lead.
Waynesville’s offense was working predominately through guards, as 30 of the team’s 48 points came from players playing on the perimeter. With Ward and fellow big man from Kickapoo, sophomore Ryan Burland, Waynesville was not able to find much success in the paint.
In the fourth quarter, Ward became unstoppable inside. Ward scored 13 of his 30 points in the period, going five for five from the free throw line in that span. Unlike his shooting from the line during the final quarter, Kickapoo as a team was unable to consistently knock down free throws. The Chiefs went nine for twenty-one from the charity stripe in the game.
At times, Waynesville appeared as if they were going to be able to shoot their way back into the contest. The Tigers trailed by as little as seven points during the fourth, but were never able to complete the comeback.
With the victory, Kickapoo improves its record to 19-5 overall, and 8-0 in conference play. They have a chance to capture the conference title against Hillcrest on Tuesday, February 19.
“I think it is time to step up and be men,” said Rippee. “Their (Hillcrest) guys have played in big games before, like the state championship and Tournament of Champions, unlike our guys so it is time for them to step up and prove themselves. I think it is a great opportunity for us.”
Waynesville will be at home Wednesday to face the Republic Tigers.
Kickapoo Scoring: Chris Ward 30, Tyler Bussell 11, Matt Ridder 5, Jack Simpson 3, Luke Thomas 3, Tyson Batiste 2, Ryan Burland 2