By Kai Raymer (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Anton Brookshire and the Kickapoo Chiefs are getting pretty comfortable with these late-game moments.
Less than a week after he made a 3-pointer in the final seconds to give Kickapoo a district championship, Brookshire came through in the clutch again.
He scored six of Kickapoo’s final seven points to lift the Chiefs to a 45-39 victory over Republic on Wednesday night in a Class 5 sectional matchup at Drury’s O’Reilly Family Event Center.
“Last year, being a freshman and all, I had the jitters a lot,” Brookshire said. “This year, as a sophomore, I’m super confident in myself and my teammates. We trust each other out there.”
Brookshire finished with a game-high 18 points.
“(Anton) knows his role on this team,” said Chiefs coach Mitch McHenry. “He’s played a lot of big-time basketball. He’s a lot more mature and experienced, even though he’s still only 15 years old.”
Kickapoo advances to face Rock Bridge, which dismantled Camdenton 88-51 Wednesday night, in the quarterfinal round at 1 p.m. Saturday at Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar.
The Bruins are 22-3 overall and feature multiple Division I-level recruits, including Missouri State commit Dajuan Harris.
Republic had a chance to tie the game in the final 30 seconds but never got off a shot attempt. A Tigers turnover put Brookshire at the line, where he made two free throws with about 20 seconds remaining to give the Chiefs a 43-39 lead.
“Honestly, I practice (free throws) a lot and I’ve been in several moments like that,” Brookshire said. “I’m always thankful to be at the line at that time, for my team and teammates. I knew it was time to put (Republic) away.”
Brookshire put an exclamation on the win with a breakaway dunk before the final buzzer.
“My adrenaline was rushing so high,” Brookshire said. “And the atmosphere was good. I was just thinking, ‘Why not?’”
When it wasn’t Brookshire, the Chiefs (22-4 overall) went inside to powerful 6-foot-8 senior center David Senn. He finished with 14 points.
Kickapoo had only attempted one free throw through the first 31:20 of the game. The Chiefs split a pair of free throws with about 35 seconds remaining to take a 41-39 lead and set the stage for a potential Republic game-tying shot.
Trent Rackley’s basket at the 1:42 mark brought Republic within 40-39. The Chiefs had a simple plan on their next possession: burn clock.
“We were going to take (the clock) down as far as we could,” McHenry said. “We’ve struggled this year just closing games out. We’ve had a lot of close games, partly because we haven’t always closed the right way.”
Kickapoo went ahead 36-29 early in the fourth quarter – the biggest lead of the game for either team – but Republic responded with seven straight points to tie the game with four minutes left.
“We executed and made plays down the stretch,” McHenry said. “I thought we did a heck of a job guarding them.”
Mitch’s father, Denny, will coach the Logan-Rogersville girls in a Class 4 quarterfinal game at Waynesville High School on Saturday afternoon. Son is fine with potentially not having much family turnout for the Chiefs’ game at SBU on Saturday.
“My sister (Maci) could play her last high school game, so I’m hoping they go to Waynesville to support her,” Mitch McHenry said. “I’ll be coaching for a long time. I’ll have plenty more games.”
Republic finishes 22-7 overall and graduates a four-player senior class that includes leading scorer and Drury commit Broc Smith.
Kickapoo 45, Republic 39
Republic 12 10 7 10 – 39
Kickapoo 10 12 12 11 – 45
Republic (22-7 overall) – Tucker Thomas 10, Broc Smith 8, Drew McMillin 6, Race Looney 5, Trent Rackley 5, Joe Rexroat 2, Jaden Duvall 2
Kickapoo (22-4 overall) – Anton Brookshire 18, David Senn 14, Tanner Oetting 8, Elijah Bridgers 5