By John Miller
When it comes to high school basketball powerhouses, you won’t find many more dominant than the Nixa Eagles.
In the last eight seasons, Nixa has gone 195-37 and has won five district titles, six conference championships, and had a streak of five straight Blue and Gold crowns. In 2012, the team finished 30-2, with one of those losses coming in the state championship game to McCluer North.
College players have been routinely produced at Nixa, especially in recent years. From Austin and Jacob Ruder to Kameron Bundy to Chase Allen, some of the best athletes in southwest Missouri on a nearly yearly basis have come through the Nixa basketball program.
Last year, the Eagles claimed their third consecutive district title, waxing Republic 64-41 in the championship game. A Class 5 state sectional loss to Kickapoo ended Nixa’s year with a 23-6 mark. Of their 23 wins, two came against state champions (Missouri Class 2 Hartville and Kansas 6A Shawnee Mission North) and one came against a state semifinalist (Mountain Grove).
“Every team that defeated us last season went on to win their district, except for Republic, who we defeated for the district championship,” said Nixa coach Jay Osborne, now in his 25th year leading the program.
Four key players graduated from last year, including Allen, the defending Central Ozark Conference Player of the Year and a two-time All-State selection. In addition, Nixa lost guards Preston Flood and Parker Dent, as well as forward Garrett Bacon.
Surely the Eagles are in finally in store for a rebuilding year, right?
“Expectations are very high,” Osborne said. “We have quality players returning. We have experienced guards, size, physical players, and good shooters. We’ll be seeking another great season.”
Four seniors highlight Nixa’s returners, including forwards Christian Bundy (6’5”) and Austin Bracker (6’4”) and guards Seth Viebrock (5’9”) and Evan Bergmann (5’10”).
With Allen graduated and now playing college football at Iowa State, the Eagles will turn to the duo Bundy and Bracker to own the paint. Last season, Bundy averaged 8 points and 3.9 rebounds while Bracker added 4.5 points and 3 rebounds.
Outside, Nixa will lean on the play of Viebrock and Bergmann, who both play the point guard position. Viebrock was named Second Team All-COC and First Team All-District last year after averaging 11.2 points, 4.4 assists, 2.6 rebounds, and 2.1 steals per game. Bergmann averaged 5.4 points per game last year for Nixa.
Junior Nathan Elmer (5’10”) and sophomore Braeden Combs (6’0”) will both see an increased role this season, after coming off the bench for the Eagles last year. Elmer played in 24 games, averaging 3 points, while Combs played in 28 games and averaged 3.6 points and 1.6 assists.
In addition, juniors Max Billbrey (6’7”), Jack Sanders (6’0”), and Joseph Weatherly (5’11”) all will be key bench players for Osborne after playing on the jayvee squad last year.
“We should be athletic in most areas, and we’ll have solid players at all positions,” Osborne said.