Balanced Nixa takes control of conference with win 84-76 over Republic

By Michael Cignoli (For

NIXA — Nixa girls basketball coach Jennifer Perryman would have been perfectly happy with the final score of Monday night’s game, but the scoring summary left her downright elated.

Five different players scored in double-figures as Nixa used a second-half run to pull away from Republic, securing an 84-76 victory in a battle between state-ranked teams at Eagle Fieldhouse.

Lilly Mahy and Norah Clark scored 19 points apiece, Rhianna Gibbons and Ali Kamies each added 17 and Macie Conway had 12 in a game with huge conference and district implications.

“That scoreboard right there is exactly how it’s supposed to be,” Perryman said, gesturing toward the board that displayed both team and individual point totals. “Balanced scoring. Five people in double-figures. When we do that, we’re a pretty good team and are pretty tough to beat.”

Balanced scoring or not, no one in the Central Ozark Conference has found a way to defeat the Eagles this season. Nixa improved to 7-0 in conference play — and 20-4 overall — and now sits alone atop the standings as it looks to secure the school’s first conference title since 2009.

The Eagles can clinch at least a share of the championship if they defeat Nesho on Thursday in Nixa and could cap off an undefeated run through the conference on Monday at Carl Junction.

“We’ve got goals and we’ve got a mission,” Perryman said. “Tonight was one step closer to that. We know that this is a big game in our conference and we know that this is a big game in our district. As competitive as our kids are, every game is a big game. We keep presenting them challenges and they keep attacking.”


The head-to-head victory also essentially guaranteed Nixa will be seeded above Republic in a sure-to-be grueling Class 6 District 5 playoff bracket, which is scheduled for release this week.

Four of the district’s eight teams are currently ranked in the statewide Top 10: No. 3 Kickapoo, No. 4 Nixa, No. 8 Ozark and No. 10 Republic. Another, Lebanon, is unranked but receiving votes.

“It is the toughest district in the state,” Clark said. “We love playing in it because we know if we come out on top then we’re really making a statement with it. There are so many talented people and teams in this district. We’re just really excited to play and hopefully come out on top of it.”

Republic was the only other team that still had a chance to finish its COC schedule undefeated, though Nixa’s huge run across the third and fourth quarters prevented that from happening.

After Missouri State commit Kaemyn Bekemeier tied the game at 55-55 with 2:06 remaining in the third, the Eagles went on a 18-2 run over the next four minutes to build an insurmountable lead.

“We had to really work on sharing the ball and getting great open looks — which we did fantastically,” Clark said. “We work on that a lot in practice. We work on pushing the ball. We work on making that extra pass and that’s what we did to pull the lead as far as we did.”

Bekemeier finished with 37 points — six days after scoring a school-record 48 against Willard — but it wasn’t enough for Republic to avoid its first conference loss of the season (17-6, 6-1).

“We couldn’t bounce back,” Republic coach Kris Flood said. “Turnovers hurt us. Their transition tonight was fantastic. They did a great job of getting out and pushing up the floor and getting easy shots. Even when it did get into the half-court, they did a good job running their offense and getting easy looks off that. Definitely, we’re there. Just that one stretch was brutal.”

Nixa overcame a brutal sequence of its own.

Sophomore guard Sadie Conway suffered an apparent knee injury only 32 seconds into the first quarter and did not return. The starter was on crutches after the game, though Perryman did not have an update on the nature of the injury or how long it might keep her out of the lineup.

“We don’t know what it is,” Perryman said. “Our trainer is confident that it’s not an ACL. We’ll look at it. We’ll re-evaluate tomorrow and we’ll go from there, but she is probably the toughest kid I know. I have no doubt that she’ll be back.”

The injury created an opportunity for another sophomore.

Four days after a breakout performance in a win over Webb City — in which she scored 18 points, all on 3-pointers — Mahy came off the bench and tied for the team lead with 19 points.

That included another four treys.

“Her mindset has changed a little bit,” Perryman said. “She’s got a little bit more confidence and she’s seeing herself as a scorer. I think early on, she was just seeing herself as a distributor. I’ve talked to her about seeing herself as a scorer. I don’t know if she’s really taken a bad shot. She’s a smart kid. She’s really coming into her own. She has come along defensively and with rebounding and that is going to keep her on the floor.”

Mahy’s emergence gives the Eagles yet another weapon as they prepare for the postseason.

Clark, a junior, holds a Division-I offer from the University of Tennessee at Martin. Seniors Macie Conway and Kamies (both Rockhurst) and Gibbons (Drury) have all committed to play in college.

With that kind of firepower, it’s easy to see why Nixa is capable of a balanced scoring attack.

“We are a very talented group this year,” Clark said. “We know what we can do. We know what we can push towards. This is what we push towards every single game because of how talented we are. This is what we strive for because we know we can do it. And we know we can do more.”

Hope Schatz added 13 points for Republic, which will await its seed in the district tournament.

Kickapoo and Nixa appear to have very strong cases for the 1-2 spots, but there are no byes in an eight-team district. And with so many state-ranked teams in the mix, it’s going to be equally challenging for any team to win the three games needed to secure the district championship.

“We’ll see where we fall,” Flood said. “I feel like we’ve got a pretty good resume to get a good seed, but we’ll see how it pans out. That first-round game — no matter what situation you’re in — you’re going to have to play and it’s going to be a good game.”

REPUBLIC 15 26 16 19 — 76
NIXA 16 26 22 20 — 84

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