By Kai Raymer (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
When Greenwood reserve Ryan Gibbons comes into the game, he knows what to do.
“Everyone has their role on this team,” he said. “My role is to knock down 3s when I go in there. I just have to do my job when I’m called upon.”
Gibbons and Greenwood’s other role players gave the Blue Jays a jolt in Friday night’s Class 3 District 11 Tournament championship game.
Greenwood pulled away from a resilient Clever squad to prevail 76-47 at Marionville High School. The game was more competitive than the final score showed.
“Clever played with a lot of energy. They were well prepared,” said Greenwood coach Darren Taylor. “Where we’ve been able to force other teams into mistakes, they didn’t make. They outworked us for a little bit. We kind of cleaned that up in the second half.”
Five Greenwood players scored eight or more as the Springfield private school clinched its third straight district championship.
Aminu Mohammed and Victory Naboya led the way with 18 points apiece, but it was Greenwood’s less heralded players who helped put Clever away.
Gibbons and Kayden Stuckey combined for 21 points off the bench. Starter Nic Burri added eight points.
“We’ve been getting more balanced scoring,” Taylor said. “We’re starting to shoot the ball better for the most part. Hopefully that can continue.”
Gibbons had 12 points. All on 3-pointers, of course.
“I was feeling (good) in warmups and I had confidence going into the game,” said Gibbons, a junior. “Then I made the shots when I got in.”
Said Taylor: “Ryan knows exactly what his role is. It’s to put that ball in the hole and he’s really good at it.”
Greenwood advances to the Class 3 state playoffs, where they’ll face the District 12 winner – Purdy or Miller – on March 2 in the sectional round.
Purdy hosts Miller at 6 p.m. Saturday in the District 12 championship game.
Clever, which upset No. 2 seed Spokane in the semifinals, was playing its underdog role to perfection early on.
Clever fell behind 9-0 early, but stayed within single digits for most of the first half. Greenwood led 35-26 at halftime.
Senior forward Bryce Gelle led Clever (10-15 overall) with 14 points.
“When they punched us in the mouth in the beginning and we fell behind 9-0, I didn’t know if we could respond,” said Clever coach Luke Brosius. “I thought we really weathered that well.
“We settled in and guarded (Greenwood) and made it tough on them in the half-court.”
In the second half, Naboya took over in the paint with dunks and putbacks. He had a pair of buckets that gave Greenwood a 50-30 lead late in the third quarter.
Mohammed had a game-high 15 rebounds and Naboya added 13 rebounds.
Taylor said last week’s winter weather gave his team a needed break.
Greenwood played one of the toughest schedules in the state, including a January stretch that featured nine games over 16 days.
“It was just game after game and I think we got a little bit tired and lost a little bit of our confidence,” Taylor said. “With the snow break last week and having some days off, I think we got a little more energy.”
Clever had struggles of its own this season as well. Several players missed time due to quarantine or contact tracing.
Adding to the woes: A sprinkler head recently broke and caused a flood inside the school, including the gym. That forced Clever into virtual school and playing home games at its middle school.
Despite the adversity, Brosius remained confident in his team entering this week.
“I still felt like we had a chance coming into districts. Those top seven guys we have, they really bought into their roles,” he said. “They’re not as talented as teams we’ve had in the past, but they embrace their roles, are unselfish and are great teammates.”
Clever graduates a four-player senior class: Kadeon Broome, Bryce Gelle, Cole Langley and point guard Jake Twigg.
Greenwood 76, Clever 47
Clever 14 12 8 13 — 47
Greenwood 23 12 23 18 — 76
Clever (10-15 overall) – Gelle 14, Pellham 8, Broome 7, Twigg 6, Pate 5, Camp 4, Allie 3
Greenwood (18-5 overall) – Naboya 18, Mohammed 18, Gibbons 12, Stuckey 9, Burri 8, Pinegar 6, Harper 5