Nixa beats Kickapoo in overtime

By Denise Tucker (For OzarksSportsZone.com)

In a battle of state-ranked teams, Nixa had to work overtime to come away with a 65-60 nonconference road victory over Kickapoo on Tuesday night, and senior Jordyn Turner provided the spark the Eagles needed.

With the game tied at 55 at the end of regulation, Turner hit a 3-pointer from the wing to give the Eagles a 58-55 lead – a lead they would not give up.

“It felt great,” Turner said of the shot. “As soon as I hit it, I was so hype. Honestly, I’m just so happy right now. We finally beat Kickapoo. It’s been since 2015, I think. I’m just so happy.”

The Eagles, ranked sixth in Class 6, improved to 13-2 and were coming off a fifth-place finish in the three-day Tournament of Champions last weekend. They fell at the buzzer to nationally ranked Milton, Ga. (50-49), before avenging a Blue Division semifinal loss to Catholic (ranked seventh in Class 5) with a consolation semifinal win (56-53). The Eagles capped off the tournament by edging Parkview (ranked sixth in Class 5) 48-44 for fifth place.

“This is an extremely difficult game to play,” Nixa coach Jay Osborne said. “Coming out of the TofC like that and coming back on the road at a really, really good team, it’s a hard game to play. We had a lot of breakdowns I think, defensively. But in the end, we got some stops, and we also made some free throws, so we made some improvements there. The effort was good, our guys were focused, and it’s a good environment.”

Nixa was able to overcome its recent free throw woes by knocking down 12 of 16 for the game. Four of those came late in the fourth quarter as Jaret Nelson hit two to pull the Eagles within two (53-51). Colin Ruffin, who led all scorers with 24 points, hit two more to keep Nixa close (55-53) before he found Noah Engelman on a high-low play to tie the game at 55.

The Eagles worked the clock for the last shot, but Kael Combs’ attempt came up short at the regulation buzzer, setting the stage for Turner’s heroics.

“Huge 3,” Osborne said of Turner’s bucket. “He’s good; he’s a good shooter. And we didn’t talk much about free throws. We didn’t shoot many yesterday; we didn’t address it. It’s kind of like a hitter that goes through a slump, you know. We’ll work our way through it. We’ll be a better free-throw shooting team than we are right now, and we’re not going to dwell on it. We’ve got good shooters. They’re going to the line, and they’ll start making them. It’s not a problem.”

CLICK HERE FOR PHOTOS OF THE GAME

Having just played in the top high school tournament in the country, Turner knew the task would be tough against seventh-ranked Kickapoo.

“Honestly, just playing hard and keep them in front of us,” said Turner, who also competed in the TofC’s dunk contest. “And yeah, our legs… I bet we’re all pretty sore. But you know, we came out here and played hard and we came out with the win.”

Nixa and Kickapoo could see each other down the road, as the two are in the same district – Class 6 District 5 (Feb. 28-March 4).

“We’ve got a lot of basketball to go,” said Osborne, who will retire at the end of the season. “We still have conference play. We’ve got Ozark and Republic, Branson and Joplin – we’ve got them all. We’ve got a tough conference schedule and we’ve got our tournament here next week, too. So, we’ve got a lot of basketball before then. We’re going to have to take care of business.”

Kickapoo coach Mitch McHenry said games like the one against Nixa come down to execution in key moments.

“I don’t know how well we executed tonight,” McHenry said. “It was a great game. I thought both teams played hard. But this is varsity basketball, where just playing hard doesn’t get it done. We probably didn’t take a great shot. And then we follow that up with we don’t talk in transition, and they get a wide open 3.

“We’ve got three big games next week, all on the road (at Joplin, Battle and Jefferson City). So, it’s going to sting and it’s going to hurt and then we’re going to watch film. We’re going to learn from what we did well, what we didn’t do well, and then we’re going to move on.”

Harrison Doennig and Brayden Shorter led the Chiefs, which fell to 12-3, with 14 points apiece.

NIXA 65, KICKAPOO 60 (OT)
Nonconference game

NIXA 18-10-21-6-10—65
KICKAPOO 12-18-18-7-5—60

NIXA (13-2) – Colin Ruffin 24, Jordyn Turner 15, Kael Combs 7, Jackson Bell 2, Jaret Nelson 11, Colten Berry 2, Noah Engelman 4.

KICKAPOO (12-3) – Zaide Lowery 8, Trae Oetting 11, Carson Noel 2, Harrison Doennig 14, Brayden Shorter 14, Andrew Robinson 11.

Nixa B 59, Kickapoo B 57 (OT)

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