By Denise Tucker (OzarksSportsZone.com)
It’s hard to keep good shooters down for long.
After a slow start to Friday night’s game at Parkview, the Kickapoo Chiefs heated up in the second quarter and carried it to a 47-40 Ozark Conference victory.
The Vikings opened the game with back-to-back 3-pointers from junior Tyem Freeman and raced to a 15-5 first-quarter lead, sparked by a Freeman steal and punctuated with a dunk as Freeman scored nine in the quarter.
A combination of Parkview’s defense and Kickapoo’s sub-par execution limited the Chiefs’ opportunities in the first.
“I thought we got some good looks in the first quarter,” Kickapoo coach Mitch McHenry said. “We just didn’t make them. And we weren’t consistent in our possessions with getting good looks where our guys could get in a rhythm. Our possessions early in the game were a little too long and we weren’t really on the attack. And, we had too many turnovers.”
Kickapoo scored five points on a drive by Elijah Bridgers and a 3-pointer from the wing by Tanner Oetting to open the second quarter to pull within 15-10, but Parkview answered in a similar fashion to extend its lead to 10 points (20-10).
That lead was short-lived as the Chiefs went on a 9-0 run on a Bridgers three and two more from Oetting, to trail the Vikings by one (20-19). Freeman scored on an inbounds play, but Oetting answered with a jumper and the Chiefs went into halftime down by one (22-21).
“In the second quarter, we started taking care of the ball, and we started getting stops on defense,” McHenry said. “It’s crazy how that works; when you get stops on defense, it transfers over to offense and that happened in the second quarter. And then it just helps when shooters make shots.”
And the Chiefs carried that momentum into the third quarter as Oetting hit another 3 to give Kickapoo its first lead of the game (24-22) with 6:35 left in the third.
“I think our guys just got in a rhythm to the game,” McHenry said. “We felt good going into this game and we knew it was going to be a battle. We told our guys before the game both teams are going to play really hard, it’s going to be a battle and we need to put four quarters together.
“I was really proud of our guys for responding after the first quarter because I don’t think we could have played any worse the first quarter on defense and on offense. And, to respond in a big game and an emotional game and not get too low, and just stick together, I thought showed our composure and we were able to make enough plays in the second half to have success.”
Parkview tied it (24-24) on a Freeman putback, but the Chiefs went on a 5-0 run to take a five-point lead. Both teams battled back and forth the rest of the quarter before Freeman, who scored a team-high 23 points, closed it out with his second dunk of the game to tie it up again (34-34) heading to the final quarter.
McHenry said the Chiefs adjusted its defense to limit the Vikings’ opportunities in transition “because that is when they are dangerous and one of the best teams in our area out in the open court and in transition.”
And, those adjustments allowed Kickapoo to hold Parkview (9-8, 1-1) to just six fourth-quarter points.
“We had chances there when it was a four-point game,” Parkview coach Landon Cornish said. “We get a stop and get the ball back, and then had a couple of turnovers that made it really difficult for us right there.
“It’s just valuing possessions, and getting better looks at that time is what we’re going to have to work on. We’ll go back and look at it on film and explain that these are big possessions, that we need to be able to slow down and be sure that we get a good shot and not have a turnover, especially when you’re playing a team that shoots their free throws really, really well like they do. It’s hard to claw back into a game.”
The Chiefs put the game away by going 11-for-12 from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter.
“We didn’t shoot very well from the free-throw last weekend in Tulsa, Oklahoma, so it was nice to see our guys hit free throws,” McHenry said. “We had our strong shooters at the line and that always helps. We expect those guys to step up to the line confidently and hit shots and they made big ones down the stretch.”
The Vikings welcomed back sophomore point guard Dontae Taylor, who had been out of action since suffering a severe high ankle sprain on Jan. 5. Taylor saw limited playing time Friday as Cornish knew he needed to ease him back into action.
“(The ankle) was very tender,” Cornish said. “He wanted to be out there, and he’s a very competitive kid. I had to make a decision to not let him just be out there and suffer at that point where he’s trying to play really hard. You can just tell by the grimaces on his face when he tries to make a cut to guard somebody, that he just couldn’t do it – not because of his effort, but because he didn’t have the push.
“I thought he did a great job. He showed a lot of heart to come in there and do it.”
Oetting made five 3-pointers and went 7-for-8 from the free-throw line to lead all scorers with 25 points for Kickapoo, which improved to 12-7 overall and 2-0 in the Ozark Conference.
“He played really well and shot the ball really well,” McHenry said. “I think it was the best game he’s played when he’s making shots. He just played within our offense and just kept waiting until his teammates got him open shots, and he went and made plays.”
KICKAPOO BOYS 47, PARKVIEW 40
Ozark Conference game
Kickapoo (12-7, 2-0) – Sam Wallin 8, Tanner Oetting 25, David Senn 2, Anton Brookshire 4, Elijah Bridgers 8.
Parkview (9-8, 1-1) – Dontae Taylor 2, Damarcus Mason 2, Daru Elliott 4, Tyem Freeman 23, Gage Clark 3, Latre Morrison 4, Alonzo Riwa 2.
Kickapoo B 59, Parkview B 46