The Kickapoo Chiefs have a lot of offensive weapons at their disposal.
But nothing beats a good offense like a good defense.
The Chiefs put on a defensive clinic Saturday afternoon, ousting Rogersville 55-21 in the Blue Division semifinals of the 68th Greenwood Blue and Gold Tournament at JQH Arena.
“They took us out of everything on offense and we couldn’t guard,” Rogersville coach Rod Gorman said. “It was a mismatch on both sides of the ball.”
Things got out of control quickly after top-seeded Kickapoo jumped out to a 5-4 lead in the opening minutes. The Chiefs then went on a 12-0 run — capped by a pair of 3-pointers from Kyle Campbell and Matt Ridder — to build a 17-6 lead.
The 3-pointer by Ridder has become a theme in this tournament. The 6-foot-1 junior guard added two more treys in the second quarter as Kickapoo (5-1) closed out the half on an 8-1 run for a commanding 31-11 lead at halftime.
Ridder — who made nine 3-pointers in a quarterfinal win over Marshfield — finished with six 3-pointers against the Wildcats. His 16 3s ties the Blue Division record set by Willard’s Steve Parker in 1988 and he has a chance to break the record in Monday’s final. Branson’s Tate Unruh set the overall tournament record with 18 in 2007.
“Of course we’re trying to find Ridder,” Kickapoo junior Jack Simpson joked. “There’s no doubt. He’s one of the best shooters in southwest Missouri and we need to find him as much as possible.”
Ridder added two more 3-pointers in the third quarter as Kickapoo put it away for good with a 10-0 run to open the half. Rogersville (7-3) missed its first seven shots of the second half.
“Guys were pretty focused and locked in, especially on defense,” Kickapoo coach Dick Rippee said. “I thought our guys, assignment-wise, (it) was about as good as we can guard. We tried to take away some things they like to do, that they’re good at….and they’ve got some young kids out there.”
The Kickapoo defense was smothering against one of the tournament’s better scoring teams. Rogersville scored 82 in a first round win over Clever and then beat Central Ozark Conference large division Branson 55-51.
“This one surprised me, honestly,” Simpson said. “We held them to 11 in the first half and we really take pride in that. A lot of people don’t like to guard and we think that can separate us from other teams.”
Ridder finished with 22 points to lead 10 Kickapoo scorers.
Kickapoo will face No. 2 Willard — a 71-55 winner over Ozark — Monday at 7 p.m. for the championship as the tournament takes a one-day hiatus. The Chiefs will be vying for their first Blue and Gold title since 2007 and a record 11th championship.
The challenge will be more than stopping Willard’s 6-foot-5 wing man Chris Kendrix, according to Rippee.
“(Kendrix is) a special player, there’s no question about that,” Rippee said. “But I think they’ve got a better team this year. Chris has obviously improved and everyone used to talk about him being a special athlete, but now he’s special player.
“I think they’ve got some guys around him now that if you make the mistake of focusing on one guy….they’re better than that this year.”
Rogersville will play Ozark for third place at 4 p.m. on Monday with a quick chance to move on from this one.
“We have made improvements (in the tournament),” Gorman said. “But you get to refocus after that.”
(2) Willard 71, (3) Ozark 55: Willard’s defensive work on the ground seized control of the semifinal game, but the aerial show from Chris Kendrix had the JQH Arena crowd buzzing late.
The Missouri State University signee hit the passing lanes late, finishing four steal-and-scores in the fourth quarter, including three punctuated by powerful dunks.
“I like these rims and everything, it just reminds me of Willard. It’s real nice to get used to it,” Kendrix said. “We kept putting the pressure on them, and kept putting bodies in.”
Kendrix had a game-high 23 points and led a Willard defensive effort which forced 23 Ozark turnovers.
Ozark (6-3) had the Willard (9-1) lead trimmed to 10 points late in the third quarter. But in the final seconds, Trayton Griffin knocked down a baseline jumper and Skyler Baker split a pair of technical foul free throws after Ozark coach Mark Schweitzer was rung up to pad the lead.
Thomas Nelson had 11 points to lead Ozark.
News-Leader reporter Matt Schoch contributed to this report.