By Kai Raymer (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
The Quinn Nelson Show took a back seat to the Nichols and Hanks Act on Friday night.
Ozark’s senior forwards dominated in the paint as Ozark overwhelmed Nixa for a 75-54 home victory.
Payton Nichols had 21 points and eight rebounds, and Parker Hanks added 15 points. With Nixa going box-and-one against Quinn Nelson – who still managed 16 points – Nichols and Hanks feasted.
“We had a feeling after struggling with (the box-and-one) against Republic (in the Blue and Gold Tournament) that we might see it tonight,” said Ozark coach Mark Schweitzer. “We worked pretty hard on it.
“I thought our kids did a great job stepping up and showing we’re more than just The Quinn Nelson Show.”
Nichols and Hanks had signature plays in a decisive third quarter that saw Ozark outscore Nixa 18-10.
During one possession, Nichols had at least three of Ozark’s six offensive rebounds – a sequence that ended in a Tigers’ layup.
“That’s Nichols trying to pad his stats,” Hanks said, jokingly.
Hanks had a dunk on Ozark’s next possession, giving the Tigers a 47-30 lead.
“We thought our length would give them trouble,” Hanks said. “We just needed to bring energy and we did that tonight.”
Nichols’ 21 points led all scorers. He’s focused on becoming more assertive offensively.
“I’m not usually use to shooting this much, but I know my team needs it,” Nichols said. “Especially when Quinn’s getting a lot of (defensive) attention, I know I need to step up and be a scorer and good defensive player for our team.”
The Tigers never trailed. Kristian Cooper drilled a pair of 3-pointers to give Ozark an early 8-2 lead.
Ozark led 19-8 after one quarter. Nixa never got closer than nine points the remainder of the game and trailed by 14 at halftime.
“I thought our depth showed out,” Schweitzer said. “We can put in waves of kids who have fresh legs and keep that pressure on, as long as we’re playing hard. When we do that, we’re a tough out.”
The margin reached turbo clock territory early in the fourth quarter as Ozark stretched its lead to 58-32.
Nathan Elmer scored 16 to lead Nixa and Drew Canady added 14 points.
Ozark improved to 15-5 overall and hosts Willard on Tuesday night. Nixa dropped to 14-7 overall and travels to Carl Junction the same night.
“We’re as close as we’ve been,” Hanks said. “We were already a close group coming in, and with this run we’ve made – since the Tournament of Champions – our confidence level is through the roof right now.”
Ozark 75, Nixa 54
Nixa 8 14 10 22 — 8 14 10 22 — 54
Ozark 19 17 18 21 — 75
Nixa – Nathan Elmer 16, Drew Canady 14, Braeden Combs 8, Kaleb Wofford 6, Max Bilbrey 6, Luke Roemen 3, Tanner Hartman 1
Ozark – Payton Nichols 21, Quinn Nelson 16, Parker Hanks 15, AJ Elliott 8, Kristian Cooper 6, Caleb Holzer 3, Parker Ramsdell 3, Peyton Skipworth 2, Forrest Barnes 1
Nixa JV 69, Ozark JV 38
Ozark freshmen 65, Nixa 50