State champs! Kickapoo boys win Class 6 state championship with victory over Liberty
One of the most talented high school basketball teams to ever come through southwest Missouri will be remembered as state champions.
Kickapoo (28-2) won the Class 6 state championship with a 71-62 win over Liberty on Saturday evening at JQH Arena. The title is the Chiefs' third in program history and first since 2006.
A team that entered the 2020-21 season with high expectations has met them. Led by senior Division I recruits Anton Brookshire, Isaac Haney, Trevon Brazile and Cameron Liggins, the Chiefs were expected to finish as champions and they did.
KICKAPOO WINS STATE
- After everything Anton Brookshire's been through, his career fittingly ends with a state title
- Mission accomplished: Kickapoo boys live up to championship expectations by winning state
Brookshire, before heading to Columbia to play at Mizzou, exits as one of the area's greats. The four-year starter ranks high in many statistical categories but, most importantly, has been the leader the Chiefs needed in order to get the team back in a position to win state a year after its semifinals run was canceled due to the pandemic.
Haney will start his career at Missouri State and goes out as one of the state's all-time leading scorers after playing his first three seasons at Dora — where he won a state title in 2020. Brazile is a Mizzou signee with seemingly limitless potential while Liggins has been a consistent player who will make a team better wherever he signs up.
Others stepped up throughout the season as well. Harrison Doennig has a tough motor in the paint while an athletic Zaide Lowery can do a little bit of everything.
The championship-run didn't come without bumps in the road along the way — but they only made the Chiefs better.
Kickapoo started the season with a pair of wins at the Willard Basketball Classic before Greenwood, led by Aminu Mohammed, charged back from down double-digits in the fourth quarter to hand the Chiefs a two-point defeat.
The Chiefs responded a week later when they went up against eventual Class 5 state champion Cardinal Ritter in Rogersville. A comeback win sparked by Brookshire and Haney showed the Chiefs what they were capable of.
Their second loss ultimately proved to be their last. Against eventual Class 3 state champion Hartville, the Chiefs fell by three in a season in which the Eagles finished undefeated. Two nights later, the Chiefs got their revenge with a 25-point blowout win over Greenwood and they never looked back.
A thrilling win followed with Brookshire making a layup right before the buzzer to beat Nixa in overtime. After an overtime win over Ozark at the Nixa Invitational Tournament, the Chiefs made sure their rematch with Nixa didn't require an extra period with an 84-69 tournament championship win.
The Chiefs only had one close game the rest of the regular season with a seven-point win over a hot Logan-Rogersville program. Hot-shooting sent Brookshire to the top of the city's all-time 3-point shooting chart with Haney becoming the state's fourth all-time leading scorer.
A district championship win over Republic, a sectional win over Nixa and a quarterfinal win over Waynesville put the Chiefs back in the semifinals — where their season ended due to the pandemic the previous year.
Against Chaminade, which was ranked No. 1 in the state, the Chiefs led for the majority of the game until the Red Devils tied it up right before the end of the third quarter. Brookshire buried a 3-pointer at the third-quarter buzzer before Haney scored the first seven points of the fourth to put the Chiefs in control and advance them to the championship.
In the title game, the Chiefs showed why they're the best team in the state.
Haney, on the JQH Arena hardwood he will play his college ball on, scored the game's first five points and worked harder than anyone else on the floor. Liggins added a jumper to give the Chiefs an early 7-0 lead.
Kickapoo built its lead up to 11, but Liberty always found a way to hang around. A Lincoln layup 10 seconds into the second quarter brought the game back within three, but that's as close as the Blue Jays got the remainder of the night.
Haney continued to be seemingly unstoppable after finishing the half with 14 points on 5-of-8 shooting. Liggins added 10 points as Brazile added six along with blocking a shot into the first row.
A state title wasn't won without one of the best players in the history of a proud Kickapoo program leaving his mark.
Brookshire started the scoring in the second half by knocking down a 3-pointer. His unselfish play saw him drive in the lane and drop a ball off to Brazile, his future Mizzou teammate, who slammed it in. The point guard didn't go without some flashiness as he finished a fancy layup at the basket to give the Chiefs their biggest lead of the game.
By the end of the third, the Chiefs built their lead up to 17. By the end of the fourth, the Chiefs were storming the court as champions.
It didn't go without some late-game drama, but the lead was too big for the Blue Jays to overcome.
Brookshire's 21 points along with Haney's 20 led the way with Liggins adding 14 and Brazile with 10. One of the great lineups in the state's history scored all but six points.
Kickapoo stormed the court when the final buzzer sounded with some holding back tears. The Chiefs knew they were on a mission and it had been accomplished.
An unforgettable team with an unbelievable amount of talent carried out exactly what it was destined to do.
Wyatt D. Wheeler is a reporter and columnist with the Springfield News-Leader. You can contact him at 417-371-6987, by email at email@example.com or Twitter at @WyattWheeler_NL. You can subscribe to his free "Bears Beat" newsletter on News-Leader.com. He's also the co-host of Sports Talk on Jock Radio weekdays from 4-6 p.m.