By Mark Schremmer
Globe Sports Writer
MIAMI, Okla. —
The Joplin Eagles started to mount a comeback in the fourth quarter.
But Kickapoo halted the rally with an exclamation point during a 59-35 win in front of a large homecoming crowd Friday night at Missouri Southern’s Robert Ellis Young Gymnasium.
Joplin (12-9, 2-4 Ozark Conference) trailed by as many as 20 points but used a 9-2 run to cut the Chiefs’ lead to 40-27 after senior Adam St. Peter converted a three-point play with 6:21 left in the game.
Kickapoo (17-5, 6-0) answered on its next two possessions with a dunk by 6-foot-6 freshman Ryan Burland and a 3-pointer by senior Tyler Bussell. The five-point flurry was the start of a 19-8 run to end the game.
“You always talk about how you’re going to answer runs,” Kickapoo coach Dick Rippee said. “We know where we need to get it. We got it inside, and I thought that was a good answer. Then Bussell’s been doing that for the last couple years. As a senior, he hits big shots ... That kind of did take the wind out of their sail.”
Joplin coach Jeff Williams said the 3-pointer, in particular, was difficult to come back from.
“That was a critical play, because right when that ball went in I knew it was the ballgame,” he said. “Before that, I thought we had a fighting chance.”
The Chiefs answered the run and played agressive defense most of the game. Kickapoo limited Joplin to eight field goals for the game and only 22 percent shooting from the field. The Eagles made only two field goals through the first 14 minutes, 37 seconds of the game.
“I think we’re playing with a lot of tenacity on defense,” Ripee said. “A lot of times people talk about how well you play together offensively. I think defensively we play pretty well together.”
Joplin’s offense also was hindered by the limited play of top offensive player Charlie Brown as he picked up his fourth foul with 4:54 left in the third and fouled out with 4:30 left in the game.
St. Peter led the Eagles with 10 points and six rebounds. Brown scored nine with seven coming in the first half.
Bussell scored a game-high 16 for the Chiefs. Chris Ward, Jack Simpson and Matt Ridder scored 11, 10 and 10 points, respectively.
Kickapoo will try to remain unbeaten in the conference Tuesday night at Rolla.
The Eagles will be at home against Glendale for senior night on Tuesday.
“I really hope our kids can knuckle down and play,” Williams said. “It’s a very winnable game for us, and I’d love nothing more than to send our senior boys out with a win in their last home game.”