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SPRINGFIELD — The Ozark Tigers got a game-winning basket from 2018 forward Payton Nichols who took an inbounds pass from near mid court from 2019 Peyton Skipworth and knocked down an off balance shot to give Ozark a 59-57 win.
With the win, Ozark improves to 6-1 this season with its only loss coming to Blue Valley Northwest, one of the premier teams in Kansas, while Kickapoo falls to 2-4.
Both teams will play at the Blue and Gold, starting on Dec. 26 with Ozark earning a No. 1 seed and Kickapoo drawing a No. 6 seed.
Here, SWMOBasketball takes a look at some of the standouts from Friday’s game:
MVP: PAYTON NICHOLS, 6’4, 2018, OZARK (pictured)
A post player of the now, Nichols hit the game winning basket to lift Ozark past a passionate Kickapoo team. Nichols swears the last play of the game was drawn up with Quinn Nelson in mind, but his quick movement a few feet from the basket led to a wide open jumper. As we’ve seen all season, Nichols shines both down low and up top. His athleticism is apparent, capable of running the floor and hanging around the rim. Nichols has some sweet post moves down low he likes to use to create space, and we can’t get enough of them.
MOST CREATIVE: ANTON BROOKSHIRE, 6’0, 2021, KICKAPOO
Brookshire makes plays that leave you smiling and shaking your head. Arguably one of the most talented freshman guards in the state, Brookshire dances around the court, shaking off opponents left and right. He has a great shot from deep, but he likes to take it to the hole. To top it off, he is an excellent defender, passer, and ball handler. Kid has it all. It’s easy to see why colleges such as K-State, Arizona State and Butler are interested as well as UNLV who gave him his first offer this year. Still just a freshman, one thing is clear –– we’re soon to enter the “Brookshire Era.”
BEST OFFENSIVE PLAYER: QUINN NELSON, 6’3, 2018, OZARK
Nelson is a rare sniper who can hit shots from anywhere. He’s excellent from deep, and sometimes just as deadly when he decides to use his Charles Barkley block moves. He backs opponents up one dribble at a time –– using his body to feel for a moment of weakness. A short turn around fade is soon to follow. Nelson doesn’t need much room to get his shot off. A few inches and he lets it fly. Nelson just keeps playing great ball this year, and we hope it never stops.
BEST 3-POINT SHOOTER: TANNER OETTING, 6’1, 2019, KICKAPOO
A crowd favorite for Kickapoo, Tanner Oetting had a huge game Friday night with a hot spirt on offense. Oetting doesn’t back down from an open look. He has a quick release and a clean stroke. Although he found success driving to the hoop and getting to the free-throw line, we like it when he steps back and takes the three. Oetting finished the night with 18 points. Twelve of those 18 points came from his four three-pointers. Kid can be huge for Kickapoo on any given night.
BEST OFF THE BENCH: AJ ELLIOT, 6’5, 2020, OZARK
Elliot is a solid young post player for Ozark who impressed us with his leadership and determination. Still only a sophomore, he has a mature game as forward. A more traditional big man, Elliot plays with his back to the basket a few feet from the glass. He likes to play close and physical. Elliot is one of those players who improves the more he’s on the floor. He’s got a good head on his shoulders, and appears to learn quickly from his mistakes. Elliot is a player to keep your eyes on.
BEST REBOUNDER: SAM WALLIN, 6’3, 2018, KICKAPOO
Wallin works for everything he gets. Especially rebounds. He has good size at 6’3, but it’s his strength and grit that separates him from the pack. An aggressive player who fouls as hard as he plays, Wallin controlled the boards Friday night whenever he was on the floor. He’s good at fighting for positon, something he never failed to do. When the ball went up, Wallin was there to bring it down and push it up the floor. He finished the night with 11 points.
STOCK RISER: PARKER HANKS, 6’2, 2018, OZARK
Hanks is one of the best silent scorers in the area. Nothing he does is flashy. He simply moves when he doesn’t have the ball, making cuts and looking for open looks. When he does hold the ball, he usually takes four dribbles or less. He has an effective jump shot near the free throw line, and the skill to get to the basket and lay it off the glass. We’re excited to see him play more this season.
BEST DEFFENSIVE PLAYER: DAVID SENN, 6’7, 2019, KICKAPOO
At 6’7, Senn towers over his opponents. He’s a muscular center who can rebound, score when he needs to, and play tough defense all four quarters. He’s a great defender down low, forcing opponents to play more outside. If they do take it down low, there’s a good chance he could get a hand on it, as he’s great at blocking shots. Senn won’t always fill out a stat sheet like we know he could, but his presence on the floor does not go overlooked.