As a local team, playing in the Bass Pro Shops Tournament of Champions is a thrill. Having the chance to win games in the tournament, makes it all that more.
But blowing a chance to win it — what does that do?
That’s the spot that Kickapoo finds itself in this morning after dropping a tough 49-46 game to Middle Village (N.Y.) Christ the King Thursday night in the opening round at JQH Arena.
“We feel like we had our opportunities and our chances,” Kickapoo senior Parker Dean said. “(Christ the King is) a really good team and we respect them.
“But we really wanted to win this one and I feel like we should have.”
The Chiefs (11-3) certainly had their chances.
After a clunky start — the teams were a combined 3-for-21 from the field and 0-11 from 3-point range as Christ the King led 5-4 after one quarter — Kickapoo seemed to find its offensive stride just before halftime.
A four-point play by Jack Simpson and consecutive 3-pointers by Kyle Campbell led the Chiefs on a 14-0 run to end the first half and give Kickapoo a 20-12 halftime lead.
“I didn’t think we shot it well early,” Kickapoo coach Dick Rippee said. “I felt like we settled for a lot of jump shots, that we weren’t really on the attack. But every time we attacked, we seemed to score.”
The wheels started coming off in the third quarter. Christ the King — which outscored Kickapoo 17-5 on turnovers — took advantage of some Kickapoo mistakes to go on an 11-0 run to take a 30-26 lead on Andre Walker’s lay-in.
The Chiefs proved resilient however, recapturing the lead 38-36 after a pair of consecutive 3-pointers by Matt Ridder. It was two of just three made baskets for the junior guard, who set a Blue and Gold record for 3-pointers last month but was stifled much of Thursday.
“(Christ the King) guarded the right guys and they took away some things,” Rippee said. “They scout us just like we scout them. They knew about (Ridder) and to his credit, he stayed with it and got us some big buckets when we needed it.”
A quick 3-pointer by the Royals’ Travis Aston gave Christ the King the lead back, a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
Kickapoo again hit a cold streak. Tyson Batiste’s 3-pointer with 46 seconds left cut the Christ the King lead to 45-42, but it was the first field goal for the Chiefs since the 3:46 mark. The Royals were able to ice it from the free throw line and a lay-up by Batiste at the buzzer accounted for the final margin.
Christ the King was successful feeding 6-foot-11 senior center Adonis Delarosa, who torched the Chiefs for 17 points.
“Having an eight-point lead at half really gave us some energy,” said Batiste, who led Kickapoo with 12 points, eight rebounds and seven assists. “They started playing us differently in the second half and we didn’t respond to that well. They were feeding that monster inside and it’s tough to match up with that when you don’t have anyone over 6-6.”
Christ the King (12-1) advances to play Montverde (Fla.) Academy — the No. 1 ranked team in the country — at 9:30 p.m.
Kickapoo will play Sun Valley (Ca.) Village Christian in the consolation bracket at 6:30.
“Guys are obviously disappointed but like I told them, things kind of went against us but it wasn’t because of a lack of effort,” Rippee said. “We don’t have time to lay around and pout. Sure we’re disappointed, but we aren’t going to sit around and wallow in it.”