BOLIVAR – The Kickapoo boys basketball team got a taste of the Final Four last season.
After falling a game shy of a state championship a year ago, the Chiefs have been anxious to get another shot at the title.
Now Kickapoo is one step closer to achieving that feat after holding off Rock Bridge for a 71-65 win on Saturday in a Class 5 quarterfinal game at Southwest Baptist University.
“It’s a special opportunity that not many people get,” Kickapoo senior Jared Ridder said. “At the beginning of the season, we knew we had a chance, so we wanted to come out and work hard every day at practice. We’re happy we reached our goal. But we’re not done yet.”
The Chiefs (25-4) will take on Webster Groves (27-2) in a semifinal matchup at 4:15 p.m. Friday at Mizzou Arena.
If everything goes according to plan, Kickapoo will be in a position to avenge a 72-59 loss to Chaminade in last year’s state championship game.
“We got a little taste last year,” Chiefs senior Cam Davis said. “We feel like we have a real shot of making something very special happen right here.”
Davis poured in 28 points to go along with six assists and six rebounds, while Ridder added 21 points to help lead Kickapoo, which has now won 15 straight games.
But Rock Bridge (22-5) made the Chiefs earn No. 15 and a consecutive trip to the Final Four.
“It’s hard to get back. You get everybody’s best shot — not just today, but our entire postseason,” Kickapoo coach Dick Rippee said. “Our guys just kind of withstood a lot of teams coming at them hard.”
The Bruins were no different.
Rock Bridge led 21-9 after the first quarter and held another 12-point advantage with 4:04 to play in the second period.
The Chiefs didn’t get flustered.
“Our guys did a tremendous job,” Rippee said. “They maintained their composure. I thought they gave us a pretty good shot early and we didn’t wilt. That’s what experience does for you and that’s something that came through for us today.”
Kickapoo used a 10-0 run to pull within two with just over a minute to play before halftime and took its first lead of the game following a jumper by Davis with 5:42 left in the third quarter.
But the real momentum swing came when Ridder hit a half-court shot at the buzzer to give the Chiefs a 33-28 lead entering the fourth quarter.
“We always joke around in practice every day shooting those shots,” Ridder said. “Cam was like, ‘This is you.’ When I let it go, I felt like it was in.”
It was, and the Chiefs didn’t trail the rest of the way. But the Bruins weren’t done fighting.
Kickapoo never panicked.
“Our experience kept us from doing that,” Rippee said. “It kept us from panicking and starting to do things that we normally don’t do. That’s certainly a nice luxury to have, no question.”
Kickapoo held a 57-48 lead, its largest of the game, with 4:27 to play in the fourth, but Rock Bridge was far from out of it. Isaiah Moseley, who finished with 28 points for Rock Bridge, sank a 3-pointer and followed with a three-point play on the next possession to bring the Bruins within two with 1:35 left.
Kickapoo responded with two quick buckets by senior Travis Vokolek and the Chiefs didn’t look back from there.
“I really think our experience shined through,” Davis said. “I feel like, since we’ve been there before, we know how to react to everything. We didn’t panic. We stayed calm the whole time, and that really shined through and helped us win the game.”
High school boys basketball Class 5 quarterfinal
Kickapoo 71, Rock Bridge 65
At Southwest Baptist University
Rock Bridge 21-12-10-22—65
Kickapoo – Cam Davis 28, Jared Ridder 21, Travis Vokolek 10, Isaac Blakeslee 8, Donyae McCaskill 4
Rock Bridge – Isaiah Mosley 28, Dajuan Harris 15, Eysan Wiley 14, Ja’Monta Black 8