You might be suffering from cabin fever after the country was pounded by the Polar Vortex, but a packed schedule has the Kickapoo Chiefs suffering from some brain drain.
Kickapoo wrapped up a stretch of eight games in 13 days with a 63-39 win over Central at home Tuesday night.
“It’s a mental grind,” Kickapoo coach Dick Rippee said. “We haven’t had too many days off since Dec. 26. That’s a pretty good stretch. We try to protect them physically, but mentally they’re a little bit fatigued as well. We need a little down time.”
They didn’t get any down time against Central (2-5). The score was knotted at 11 early in the second quarter and a D’Angelo Bedell 3-pointer had the Bulldogs within 20-16 with 4:37 to play before the break.
But the Chiefs closed the half strong, finishing on a 10-2 run and getting a pair of Jack Simpson free throws and a Matt Ridder 3-pointer to give Kickapoo a 37-24 lead at the half.
“I thought Central was well-prepared and played us tough all night,” Rippee said. “But Jack and Parker (Dean) got out on the front end of our press a little bit, got some ball pressure, and got them to rush into stuff.”
That defensive pressure was the key for the Chiefs, who struggled to create half-court offense against Central. Kickapoo harassed Central into 17 turnovers in the first half, leading to 21 points.
“Defensive pressure’s always key for us,” Simpson said. “We’ve prided ourselves on our defense. We kind of struggled on offense tonight. We got most of our stuff in transition off of defense, so it was really key for us tonight.”
That double-digit lead was enough of a cushion against a shorthanded pack of Bulldogs. Kickapoo (10-1) expanded its lead to 50-31 after three quarters and cruised home for the win.
Central was playing without leading scorer Tre Robinson — who is averaging about 19 points per game — as well as impact players Charles Ferguson and Alex Graves. That forced Johnson to ask for extra minutes from some inexperienced players.
“We had three or four freshmen coming off the bench,” Central coach Armando Johnson said. “We had to put (Deon) Hodges out there, with Tre being hurt, and that’s a kid that’s used to playing two minutes per game. He played the whole game and he impressed me a lot tonight.
“I got our upperclassmen together in the locker room — the kids that have been with me for three years — and I told them it’s up to us. We can’t be relying on those kids coming off the bench trying to save us and help us.”
Robinson injured a wrist taking a charge in practice. He’s expected to return next Friday night.
Ridder led three Chiefs in double figures with 15 points. Simpson added 13, while 6-foot-6 post Ryan Burland added 10.
Central was paced by Bedell’s 18 points.
“The kids showed a lot of improvement, and I think they showed a lot of heart being shorthanded like they are,” Johnson said.
“Sometimes when we get down, we slow down our efforts. But tonight, as a team, they all said we’re not going to give up. We’re going to keep fighting.”