By Matt Turer — email@example.com
Nixa, Mo. — Jay Osborne has watched Christian Bundy progress by leaps and bounds the past two seasons. Just over a year ago, the senior was still logging JV minutes. Friday night, Bundy pushed Nixa to its fourth consecutive district title.
“He played like a man tonight. He grew up tonight,” Osborne said of Bundy. “He was physical, but he was smart about it. His energy level was great tonight, his footwork was good tonight and he finished shots.”
Bundy scored 20 of Nixa’s 52 points Friday night and 2-seed Nixa fought off a fourth-quarter explosion by Republic’s Treydon Rackley for a 52-48 victory in the Class 5 District 12 title game.
Nathan Elmer added 14 points for the Eagles (25-3), who now have a date booked with Kickapoo in the state sectionals on March 8.
“We’re expecting to go to state,” Bundy said. “We really think we can go all the way this year. We have a really great team who can do everything, so, it could be a good year.”
Nixa trailed Republic (22-6) by a point at the break and by six early in the third quarter before beginning to make a run. Trailing 33-27 with 5:22 to play in the third quarter, Osborne took a timeout that sparked a 12-2 Nixa run, putting the Eagles up 39-35 early in the fourth quarter.
“Emphasis on defense, boxing out and rebounding [keyed that run],” Bundy said. “It’s what we focused on this game. Because last [time we played Republic] we lost in double overtime on a tip-in, so this game we really just focused on rebounding and it paid off.”
Republic beat Nixa 58-57 in double overtime on a Caleb Singley tip-in at the buzzer on Feb. 14. That win gave Republic the top-seed in the district tournament and has stuck with the Eagles over the past 2.5 weeks.
“I told our guys after that loss, would you rather beat them in conference or in district, and they all said district, and I said, ‘There you go,’” Osborne said.
Nixa got its revenge in a defensive slug fest. With 10 seniors between the two sides, there was no shortage of bodies battling for every last minute of their high school careers. Rackley was one of them. With Republic struggling to find any openings in Nixa’s defense in the final eight minutes, he hit three 3-pointers and went 3-for-3 from the free-throw line, scoring 12 of his 19 points and accounting for all but one of Republic’s points in the quarter.
“[Those seniors] bring it every game and they don’t lay down for anybody,” Osborne said of Republic’s six seniors. “I knew they were going to be out here trying to play hard.”
For every shot Rackley connected on, Nixa and Bundy had an answer. The big senior fought, scrapped and flexed his way to 10 of the Eagles’ 15 fourth-quarter points, igniting the black-clad home crowd into progressively wilder frenzies in the process.
Bundy’s fourth-quarter push was preempted by Elmer’s late show in the third as the senior sharpshooter connected on a late 3 and was fouled on another, hitting 2-of-3 from the line and giving Nixa a 37-35 lead through three quarters that it would only give up once more the rest of the night.
“You’ve got to give [Nixa] all the credit,” Republic coach Trevyor Fisher said. “They made some huge shots. You’ve just got to give them all the credit for making the plays at the right times. But I still couldn’t be more proud of our group. I thought we battled the best we could and gave ourselves an opportunity to win the game. Just didn’t come out on top.”
Minutes after the final buzzer sounded, Nixa’s student section mobbed the Eagles and its district championship plaque after their 32 minutes of work.
“It was crazy,” Bundy said. “It’s such a great feeling as a senior. The season could end any moment in the postseason, so we got out here and just gave it our all. The student section was crazy today.”
FINAL: Nixa 52, Republic 48
Nixa 8 17 12 15- 52
Republic 12 14 9 13- 48
Nixa- Christian Bundy 20, Nathan Elmer 14, Braeden Combs 6, Seth Viebrock 6, Evan Bergmann 4, Austin Bracker 2
Republic- Treydon Rackley 19, Ty Stevens 8, Mitchell Coiner 5, Cameron Doke 5, Caleb Singley 5, Devon Ward 3, Broc Smith 3