Parkview coach Bill Brown knew how good Chris Ward could become when he coached him as a freshman three years ago.
Unfortunately for Brown, he saw it firsthand on Tuesday night.
Now at Kickapoo, the senior center has developed into a formidable force and one of the top players in southwest Missouri.
Ward had game highs of 18 points and 10 rebounds to lead Kickapoo to a 45-38 Ozark Conference victory over visiting Parkview.
Ward said he grew up with Parkview senior standouts AJ Green and Erik Durham, and considers Durham among his best friends.
“But his family probably hates me right now, but it’ll be all good in a couple weeks,” Ward said. “It was big for coach (Dick Rippee) because he coached there, and it was big for me because I played there. It was just a big game, in general.”
It was also the first time the Kickapoo seniors had beaten Parkview (15-3, 2-1, ranked No. 9 in Class 5 by Missouri Basketball Coaches Association).
Kickapoo (11-4, 2-0) opened the second quarter with an 8-2 run to open its lead to 17-9 in a slow-paced first half. However, when Ward went to the bench with two fouls, Durham helped lead the Vikings back.
Then, powerful dunk in traffic from Green, and a Connor Ratcliff 3-pointer as the first half ticked away, tied the score heading into the locker room.
Rippee, who was head coach at Parkview from 1998-2002, said with Ward and senior Tyler Bussell on the bench with foul trouble, the Chiefs were glad to have not lost the lead.
“We were playing four sophomores and a junior out there for a major part of the second quarter,” Rippee said. “I thought our young ones did a great job of keeping (their) composure.”
In the third, Ward showed off his power and endurance, barreling his way to the final six points of the quarter to give his team a 37-30 lead.
He then helped ice the game with six points and three rebounds in the third, showing not much fatigue for a 6-foot-5, 245-pound player.
“He’s really slimmed up and he’s worked really hard to get to where he is now,” Brown said of his former player, who was 6-for-8 from the field. “We knew all along that if he could take that potential and get focused … he’s very skilled, and is a big player. Condition-wise, he’s as good as he’s been, well, ever.”
Ward also helped control the glass for the Chiefs, who outrebounded Parkview 25-19.
Parkview’s Durham, who broke the school record last week with a 44-point night in a win over West Plains, had to handle the ball more against Kickapoo’s pressure, limiting his ability to get open, Brown said.
Durham finished with 13 points on 5-of-14 shooting.
The Vikings are without starter Darris Perry, whose broken hand has forced some younger players into action.
Kickapoo, meanwhile, had sophomore Tyson Batiste back for his fifth game after a broken ankle forced him to miss half the season.
Although he’s working his way back into form, Ward said Batiste’s presence is a huge lift.
“I can’t even explain (how important he is),” Ward said. “He’s one guy I know won’t turn over the ball, and it’s just another good guy we’ve got. It’s just good to have him back.”
Parkview plays Friday at Branson, and Kickapoo is in the Nixa Tournament. The second-seeded Chiefs open at 4:30 p.m. Thursday against Harrisonville.
“That’s a nice win against a really, really, really good team,” Rippee said. “They’re well-coached, and well-drilled. So, any time you can beat them, you’re really doing some good things.”