NIXA – Nixa used size to win the basketball fight between the two biggest dogs in the Springfield metro yard.
The No. 8-ranked Eagles’ 2-3 zone defense held No. 6 Kickapoo at bay in a 59-46 win over the perennial heavyweight Chiefs.
“We beat an outstanding basketball team, a team that’s got final four potential or state title potential,” Nixa coach Jay Osborne said. “It’s really good for our program and I’m really proud of our kids.”
The Eagles used a zone defense with 6-foot-7 junior Chase Allen defending the lane and the remaining four defenders trying to take away perimeter shots.
“Any penetration we were picking up with our size inside, so we felt really good,” Allen said.
Allen scored 13 points for Nixa while his counterpart Jacob Ruder led all scorers with 23 points. Ruder was proud of the Eagles’ defending.
“We knew we had to stay out on the threes. We knew if they were going to catch back up that’s how they were going to do it,” Ruder said. “Everybody knew coming into this we were more of a big team and they were more of a quick team.”
“They’ve got too much quickness, too much speed, too many penetrators, too many gap fillers for us,” Osborne said. “I thought we did an excellent job of closing down on their perimeter shooters for the most part.”
Isaac Johnson led Kickapoo with 17 points. Thirteen of those came in a second half that saw Kickapoo overcome an eight-point halftime deficit to tie the score with 1:30 remaining in the third quarter on a Matt Ridder 3-pointer.
However, Nixa outscored Kickapoo 22-13 in the final frame.
“You spend a lot of energy getting back in the game,” Chiefs coach Dick Rippee said.
Nixa got off to a hot start and closed the first quarter on an 11-0 run. Kickapoo, meanwhile, struggled to score against the 2-3 zone.
“We just didn’t make any shots tonight,” Rippee said. “It’s a good defense for them because they are long and they can get out and contest shots, so give them credit, but we certainly had looks. We just didn’t make shots tonight.”
The loss drops Kickapoo to 14-2. It’s the Chiefs’ first defeat since a 62-60 Dec. 29 overtime loss to Hazelwood Central in the Coaches vs. Cancer tournament at Meramec Community College. Rippee says his team wasn’t prepared for Nixa after it spent the weekend winning the Sedalia Smith-Cotton Classic, Kickapoo’s second tournament championship on the season.
Nixa (14-1) holds a tournament crown of its own, the Blue bracket championship at the 2014 Greenwood Blue and Gold. The Eagles last suffered a loss Dec. 5 to Waynesville in their home opener.
Kickapoo returns to its home floor Friday to take on Hillcrest and plays again at home the following Friday, Jan. 30 against Parkview.
Nixa goes back to action Thursday on the road against Luke Call, Chandler Myers and the Mount Vernon Mountaineers. The Eagles are then off until Thursday, Jan. 29, when they face Harrisonville in the first round of the Nixa Invitational Tournament.