By Jeff Kessinger (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
There was no way Republic was going to let Kickapoo break the 70-point mark for the 17th time this season. And the Tigers didn’t, thanks to an effective slowdown offense. In fact, second-seeded Republic held Kickapoo to its third lowest point total of the season.
Not that it mattered. Top seed Kickapoo grinded out a 52-44 win to capture the Class 6 District 12 championship Friday night at Republic High School.
“Any time we run into that Coach (Mitch McHenry) says ‘Whatever it takes,’” Kickapoo senior Isaac Haney said. “We just take the ‘me’ out of team and we do whatever it takes to win. I’m very proud of the guys for whatever it takes to win tonight.”
Nothing exemplified that attitude more than the first possession of the fourth quarter. Protecting a 38-31 lead, Kicakpoo (23-2) ran nearly two minutes off the clock before Haney found sophomore post Harrison Doenning wide open for an easy lay-in. Republic threatened a few times in the second half, but never got closer than 6 points the rest of the night.
“Until they give us a shot clock, we’re going to do what we need to do and we don’t need to be in a rush,” McHenry said. “We felt like we could be patient and play together until we got a wide-open look, and the kids executed it perfectly. The kids haven’t done that much this year. We haven’t really needed to, but at this time of year it’s whatever it takes.”
It wasn’t the only adaptation by the team in white and gold. Senior guard Anton Brookshire. missed significant minutes with foul trouble but still managed to score 14 points and find ways to help his team.
“As long as I’m into the game, whether it’s on the court or on the sideline, that’s all that matters,” Brookshire said. “If I can give my teammates good advice from the sideline or in the game, I’m going to do that. My role is to be a leader, so I feel like I should be as impactful on the court as I am on the sideline.”
Brookshire got his buckets in a hurry, scoring 8 points in a 5-minute stretch of the third quarter. He helped ice the win with 3 free throws in the final minute.
“For a kid that never comes out of the game, like Anton, and to sit as much as he did, he handled it really well,” McHenry said. “Then he came right in off the bench and hit some big shots and made some big plays. Some other kids might press in that situation, but he had a lot of composure and trust with us and his teammates when things weren’t going his way individually.”
Haney scored a game-high 16 to lead Kickapoo. It’s the senior’s fourth district title, three at Dora and this one at Kickapoo. He said they’re all special, this one included
“Winning at the highest level, Class 6, that makes it special,” Haney said. “Because I’ve won a few, I focus on the bigger goal. I try to keep us focused because we have more ahead of us.”
Drew McMillin scored 15 points in his final game in a Tiger uniform to lead Republic (22-5) Sophomore Ahlante Askew added 10 for the Tigers.
“Our kids weren’t scared and they didn’t back down,” Republic coach Tim Brown said. “We grinded and we gave them everything we have. This has been a special season for this group. This is probably one of the most rewarding years I’ve had as a basketball coach. I’m thankful to them and to their parents for raising them to be that way and trusting me to make the decisions I needed to make as a coach. Even though we came up short, I wouldn’t trade our locker room for anyone else’s.”
There wasn’t much between the teams in the first half. Kickapoo got off to a quick start, with an Isaac Haney 3 and Harrison Doenning bucket in the lane giving them a 5-0 lead just 36 seconds in.
But it was back and forth from there. The lead changed hands four times before the break, before KHS bookended the half with another surge. This time it was a pair of Trevon Brazile free throws and a Haney steal-and-layup in the final 24 seconds to push Kickapoo to a 27-22 halftime lead.
The win sets up a showdown between No. 2 Kickapoo and No. 2 Nixa at 6 p.m. March 9 (location TBA). Kickapoo has its sights set on a return to the Final Four and a state championship. Nixa would love to derail that, especially after losing twice to Kickapoo in the regular season.
“We have a couple guys on the team that haven’t won any district championships, so this was a big one for us,” Brookshire said. “We’re super excited and we’re going to celebrate it, but the end of the day we know what our main goal is. We’re going to try to stay focused and keep digging and try to get that ultimate goal that we want.”
RHS 15 7 9 13 — 44
KHS 16 11 11 14 — 52
Republic — Drew McMillin 15, Ahlante Askew 10, Avery Moody 8, Olliver Welch 4, Carson Neff 4, Tyson Young 3, Devon McMillin 1
Kickapoo — Isaac Haney 16, Anton Brookshire, Jr. 14, Trevon Brazile 7, Cameron Liggins 7, Harrison Doenning 6, Zaide Lowery 2