By Dana Harding (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Springfield, Mo. — With seating limited, students and spectators arrived early for Tuesday’s 100th edition of the Southside Showdown rivalry between Kickapoo and Glendale.
The capacity crowd was treated to an absolute thriller.
Following a back-and-forth first half, the Chiefs took advantage of a 17-3 third-quarter run en route to a 76-66 victory.
Sophomore standout Anton Brookshire led Kickapoo with 22 points; however, it was David Senn’s dominant interior play that proved to be the difference-maker for the Chiefs.
Quiet in the first half, the 6-foot-8 senior was a force in the second, scoring 13 of his 17 points.
Asked about Senn’s late-game effectiveness, Kickapoo head coach Mitch McHenry had a simple answer.
“We gave [Senn] touches, and he’s been very efficient,” McHenry said. “When we give him touches on the block, he’s either going to find a guard that’s open — because he gets so much attention — or he’s going to go score.”
While Senn’s offensive game certainly helped Kickapoo stretch its lead, his play on the defensive end proved to be just as pivotal in the win with three critical blocks in the closing minutes.
McHenry praised his senior leader’s defensive performance and attributed it to a simple, late-game adjustment in technique.
“Late in the game, he got in position earlier on defense to be able to block shots,” McHenry said. “Earlier in the game, he was about a half-step late and just missed them, but he’s a 6-foot-8 rim-protector for us and does a great job scoring at the rim. That’s a game he needs to dominate in.”
From the opening tip, both teams came out firing from the perimeter.
Kickapoo’s Tanner Oetting connected on a pair of 3-pointers in the first quarter to give Kickapoo an early 11-9 lead.
The Chiefs combined for five 3-pointers in the first half.
Not to be outdone, Glendale’s Jordan Kerr answered Kickapoo’s long-range salvo in the second with a trio of his own in succession to tie the game at 29-29.
After Brookshire and Glendale’s Winston Quinn traded 3s in the final two minutes, the two teams headed for the break with the score tied at 35-35.
Hoping to break the game open, Kickapoo jumped out early in the third, with Brookshire taking control of the offense.
For McHenry, better ball movement opened up a host of opportunities for Brookshire to operate and make plays in the third period.
“We weren’t very efficient in the first half on offense,” McHenry said. “We did a poor job of moving, and we just watched [Brookshire] and Tanner Oetting just dribble the ball. I thought, in the second half, we did a better job of moving without the basketball and that freed him up.”
An exceptional playmaker, Brookshire was able to penetrate the lane and find open shooters repeatedly in the second half, something McHenry and the Chiefs have become used to seeing.
“When he has it in his hands, the whole defense loads up to him,” McHenry said of Brookshire. “Pretty much every game, he’s getting the best defender tied to him, and he still makes plays because he’s a special player.”
A Cross Elmquist basket with just over a minute left in the third quarter gave Kickapoo its biggest lead of the game at 56-40.
For Glendale head coach Brian McTague, the Falcons’ flat stretch occured at the worst possible moment.
McTague had urged his team to start quickly in the third and seize control of the game.
Unfortunately, the wrong team ended up following his plan.
“I didn’t think we had the energy that we had in the first half, even though that’s what we emphasized,” McTague said. “We had to call three timeouts in about a three minute stretch there to try to get off life support.”
Focused on limiting Brookshire’s opportunities to create havoc with the ball, the Falcons dared the other Chiefs on the court to step up and make shots.
Senn, in particular, was more than happy to oblige.
“[Brookshire] is a good player,” McTague said. “He makes everything go for them. We wanted to trap him as much as we could to get the ball out of his hands and make someone else make plays. Unfortunately, [Senn] hurt us more than we expected on the offensive end.”
Down, but not out, Glendale managed to rally.
Jadon Gilpin and Isaac Hill combined for five points in the final minute to cut the lead to 56-11, and suddenly there was life again on the Falcon bench in between periods.
“We finally snapped out of it, and kids started fighting again late in the third quarter,” McTague said. “We were able to get it back to nine or ten going into the fourth and give ourselves a chance.”
Twice in the fourth quarter, Glendale was able to cut Kickapoo’s lead to six on 3-pointers from Kerr and Quinn; however, the Falcons were unable to get any closer.
Once again, Senn played a pivotal role in thwarting the Glendale comeback attempt with a trio of late blocks and a traditional 3-point play in the game’s final minute.
After twisting a would-be dunk attempt into a layup, Senn — a 50 percent free throw shooter — headed to the line with 32 seconds left in the game and converted the attempt.
“I was definitely wanting to dunk the ball, but I got hit from the back,” Senn said. “I’m not a very good free throw shooter, so all I’m thinking about is making that one free throw, because I haven’t been very successful.”
Oetting joined Brookshire and Senn in double figures with 15 points for Kickapoo (15-4).
Glendale (11-10) placed four scorers in double figures, including Quinn (20), Carter Harrell (14), Gilpin (12) and Kerr (12).
The victory gives Kickapoo a 52-48 advantage in the overall series, which dates back to 1971.
Varsity Final: Kickapoo – 76, Glendale – 66
Kickapoo 18 17 21 20 — 76
Glendale 17 18 10 21 — 66
Kickapoo scoring: Anton Brookshire – 22, David Senn – 17, Tanner Oetting – 15, Elijah Bridgers – 7, Jalen McGarrah – 5, Cameron Liggans – 3, Micah McIntire – 2, Cross Elmquist – 2, Luke Rebmann – 2, Cary Ragan – 1
Glendale scoring: Winston Quinn – 20, Carter Harrell – 14, Jadon Gilpin – 12, Jordan Kerr – 12, Jackson Osborn – 4, Karter Lowry – 2, Isaac Hill – 2
JV final: Kickapoo – 68, Glendale – 57