SPRINGFIELD–With all due respect to Beatles legend Ringo Star, no one wants to pay their dues just to sing the blues. We know anything worth doing don’t come easy. And that counts double when you’re playing for a state title.
Just ask the student section for Kickapoo High School, the crazy Chiefs were alive and well in the building rooting on Mitch McHenry’s team to defeat the Staley Falcons and bring home the school’s fourth championship banner.
Kickapoo trailed by 6 entering the second quarter, then went on a 13-5 run ending with Brayden Shorter’s bucket to give the Chiefs a 3-point lead.
But in the waning seconds of the half, Kyan “pepper” Evans drops the silky floater over Harrison Doening. Falcons took a 1-point lead into the break.
When these two played in the Tournament of Champions, Staley stomped Kickapoo by 31 because of plays like this. Jared Lee using his athletic edge to get to the bucket. Staley ahead by a deuce.
But this wasn’t that same Chiefs team. Coach McHenry’s squad beat four ranked opponents to get on this stage. Shorter gives Kickapoo a 25-21 advantage with under 6 to play in the 3rd.
3 minutes later, Xavier Wilson showing you why the Falcons came into this fight with record of 28-2. His easy layup ties it at 25 all.
Next Staley possession, Kayden Fish, slippery like one. Gets the bucket and the foul call. He’d make the free throw. Falcons in front by 4.
Chiefs weren’t backing down though. Trae Oetting, earns two the hard way. He had 16 yesterday, finished with 11 tonight.
Then right at the end of the quarter, it’s Lee hitting the soft bank shot over Doenning. Falcons flying high off momentum and a 7-point cushion.
4th quarter, Shorter, trying to will his team to victory, rings the bell with a crucial three. The senior finished with a team-high 14 points in his final game in brown and gold.
However, Staley just had too much fire power. Cameron Manyawu’s alley oop seals the Chiefs fate.
Kickapoo ends the year 23-8 as the State Runner-Up for Class 6. After the game, Coach McHenry shared a somber goodbye to this special group.
“I am beyond proud of what we accomplished, what we did this year,” said Kickapoo Head Coach Mitch McHenry. “Losing is not fun. Not fun. But we have tears because something is ending. Not because of a loss. We have tears because I don’t get to coach these guys anymore. We have tears because they don’t get to wear the brown and gold anymore. Those are our tears. Not because of regret and I can’t be more proud of these guys sitting up here with me right now.”