FAIRFAX, Mo. — West Nodaway’s boys basketball team has made its living this season by forcing team’s to rely on their secondary ball-handlers to break pressure and make plays for their teammates.
That strategy found them tremendous successful many times this season, including Tuesday in their win over East Atchison, but when a team’s secondary playmaker is St. Joseph Christian junior Malik Tucker, that spells trouble for the Rockets.
“Overall, I think we just got out-rebounded and out-hustled a little bit tonight and it could have been because we played back-to-back,” West Nodaway coach Kolton Jones said. “We worked really hard last night and you saw where we want to be. Tonight was just a rough night for us. We need to come back Friday stronger and ready to play.”
With Tucker, an Alabama native, exploding for 22 points, the top-seeded Lions were able to top the fifth-seeded Rockets, 66-35.
“All in all, they didn’t score a lot of the easy layups like the did in the PVI championship game,” Jones said. “We were in a man-to-man press then, now we are in more of a 2-2-1, but we made sure to move some guys back so we didn’t get beat.”
Christian got off to a great start with a 12-3 lead in the first quarter and that lead was kept at nine points at 15-6 with a three by Tucker — giving him eight first quarter points. Lion senior Zach Maggart had a pair of threes and senior Simon Maize had four points to extend the lead to 25-12 mid-way through the second quarter.
“They just hit a lot of outside shots tonight,” Jones said.
A contested layup by West Nodaway sophomore Eli Sanders had the Rockets within 30-15 near the end of the second quarter, but Tucker rattled off six-straight points to end the half and push the lead to 21 points.
Playing on their second-straight night and with junior forward Brody Beason playing despite being ill, the Rockets couldn’t maintain their pace in the second half and the Lions took advantage.
A Tucker three put Christian up 58-27 midway through the fourth period and they cruised to the 66-35 victory with a running clock.
Despite being sick, Beason led the Rocket offense with ten points.
“He was a little weak after being sick like that,” Jones said. “I’m proud that he was here tonight and gave us his best. There in the third quarter we worked the ball into him well.”
Junior Parker Ogle and freshman Tyler Blay each had six points while top scorers Korbin Koch and David Hull were each held to four each. Sanders finished with three points and junior Dylan Carden rounded out the scoring with two points.
West Nodaway will play South Holt for third place on Friday at 6:30 p.m.
“I’m proud,” Jones said. “We are playing for a trophy and a little hardware. There is nothing wrong with playing for a little hardware.”