By Amanda Perkins (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
West Plains upset Class 5 No. 9 Kickapoo Tuesday night in a 56-52 victory on their home court to improve to 3-1 in conference while handing the Chiefs their first conference loss.
“It was a big win for us,” said West Plains head coach Shane Benson. “They just came off the Nixa Tournament Championship. I don’t know the last time we beat Kickapoo, but we’ll take it tonight. We’ve got the chance to win a few games in the conference and we’d like to see what we can do.”
The Zizzers were coming off a tournament win of their own at Bolivar and got off to a hot start against the Chiefs with a 6-0 run. Kickapoo tied it up at six, connecting on shots from downtown by Anton Brookshire and Tanner Oetting. Clay Butler and Jake Swope began their scoring tandem, combining for 15 points in the frame, while Oetting put up four more himself. The Chiefs trailed by three going into the second.
The back and forth continued until Micah McIntire and David Senn put up back-to-back buckets to bring the Chiefs into the lead. The Zizzers took the lead back with a Garel McGinley three and Garrett Warren free throw to head into halftime with a 24-23 lead.
The Chiefs came out of the locker room ready to play, quickly firing off a three and connecting on two more to pull ahead of the Zizzers. Allen Marcak answered with a three for West Plains, and Swope scored twice in the post to once again tie the game.
Clay Butler and McIntire made offsetting threes, but the Chiefs pulled ahead by one to enter the final frame, 40-39.
The Chiefs struggled to connect in the fourth, and the Zizzers pulled ahead by nine. McIntire hit another three to bring it within six, but Butler’s steal and layup would be the final score until just before the one-minute mark.
That’s when Jake Swope went to the line on a technical foul, advancing the Zizzer lead to 52-43.
With one minute on the clock, Brookshire drained a three, then Cameron Liggans knocked down another three to get within five, 56-51.
The Zizzers fouled twice in the final seconds, giving the Chiefs another chance at victory, but West Plains held on to claim the game.
“My guards had to go against their pressure all night and then play really hard on the top of our zone,” said Benson. “We got a few stops and got about every rebound in the fourth quarter. They were shooting a lot of outside shots and we did a good job of getting a hand in their face and getting some stops. I didn’t know if we could guard them and I think we did a really good job holding that bunch to 52. It’s just a really good game for us. We had a little bit of trouble on offense again, hitting free throws especially, and we have to do a better job at that, but we just wanted to play hard and I thought they really played hard. I’m really proud of them.”
Senior center Jake Swope and senior guard Clay Butler combined for 39 of the team’s 52 points on the night.
“It’s Kickapoo, and any time you beat Kickapoo, that’s all you need to say, really. It’s a great win for this bunch,” said Benson.
The Chiefs are now 13-4 and 2-1 in the Ozark Conference. They host Lebanon on Friday. The Zizzers host the Class 4 state-ranked Rolla Bulldogs, the final undefeated team in the conference, on Friday. West Plains is now 16-4 and 3-1 in conference play.
Scoring for West Plains: Jake Swope, 21; Clay Butler, 18; Garrett Warren, 8; Allen Marcak, 4; Garel McGinley, 3; Taylor Harrison, 2;
Scoring for Kickapoo: Anton Brookshire, 17; Tanner Oetting, 10; Micah McIntire, 9; Cameron Liggans, 8; David Senn, 6; Cross Elmquist, 2.