An offensive explosion sent Kickapoo to the boys basketball quarterfinals.
The Chiefs led Nixa 31-27 at halftime, but set off on a backbreaking 19-0 scoring run in the third quarter and went on to win Thursday’s sectional playoff game 79-46 at the O’Reilly Family Event Center. Xavier signee Jared Ridder scored 28 points for Kickapoo, Navy signee Cameron Davis scored 17, and unsigned senior Isaac Blakeslee finished with 13 points.
Blakeslee hit a key 3-pointer and drove for a slick layup during the third quarter run. He looked the part of a secret weapon in the Kickapoo offense.
“It was a blast,” Blakeslee said. “We were just executing everything, making shots and we were just having fun together.”
Blakeslee often gets lost in the shuffle of Ridder and Davis scoring points, but he holds no grudges against his teammates.
“It’s amazing. I grew up playing with them, so we’ve always been together. The communication and chemistry is just there with us, I feel like,” Blakeslee said.
Kickapoo coach Dick Rippee was pleased with how Blakeslee played on offense and defense against Nixa.
“(Blakeslee) is making baskets for us and had opportunities, and I thought our guys did a good job of setting him up,” Rippee said.
While Ridder and Davis are set to play NCAA Division I basketball, and senior Travis Vokolek is signed to play football at Rutgers, Blakelee is undecided on where he will go to college. He would like to play college basketball, but jokes that intramural games might be as close as he gets.
Some programs have expressed interest in the 6-foot-2 senior.
“I’m actually getting some looks from local schools. I don’t know what I’m going to do yet. Mainly I’m just having fun with my teammates I’ve played with forever and try to make it last as long as possible,” Blakeslee said.
Rippee attributed his team outscoring Nixa 48-17 in the second half to the Chiefs answering a demand from their coach.
“I just challenged our guys. We’ve had some games in the past where your seniors don’t have the best games. I thought our seniors played really well tonight in the biggest game of the season,” Rippee said. “I thought our experience showed.”
Nixa finishes the season 25-4. Nixa coach Jay Osborne didn’t want to say much after the game, but he did discuss the overall body of work that went into the Eagles’ 2016-2017 season.
“I’m really proud of our guys for the season we had. I think we overachieved, I think we surprised some people. We’ve got great kids,” Osborne said. “I’m not going to let one loss tonight determine how I feel about this team and about our season. We had a great season.”
Braeden Combs led Nixa with 13 points.
Nixa stands to lose four seniors, all of whom contributed heavily to the 25-4 campaign in Christian Bundy, Seth Viebrock, Austin Bracker and Evan Bergmann. Viebrock reached double digits with 10 points in his final high school game.
Kickapoo moves on to the Class 5 playoff quarterfinals, which take place Saturday, March 11 at 1 p.m. at John Q. Hammons Court at the Meyer Wellness Center on the campus of Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar. The Chiefs will take on Rock Bridge (22-4), which defeated Willard 66-37 Wednesday night in Sedalia. Willard finished the season 18-10.
Nixa (25-4) has won four consecutive district championships and 18 district titles overall, making it one of the most successful southwest Missouri programs over the past decade.
Kickapoo (23-4) is the 2017 Ozark Conference champion, having suffered just one loss to a Missouri opponent, Lee’s Summit West, this season.
High school boys basketball Class 5 sectional playoff
Kickapoo 79, Nixa 46
At O’Reilly Family Event Center, Drury University
Nixa — Braeden Combs 13, Seth Viebrock 10, Austin Bracker 7, Christian Bundy 6, Evan Bergmann 5, Nathan Elmer 3, Isaiah Engleman 2
Kickapoo — Jared Ridder 28, Cameron Davis 17, Isaac Blakeslee 13, Corey Dye 7, Donyae McCakill 6, Samuel Wallin 3, Mitch Closser 2, Tanner Oetting 2, Travis Vokolek 1.