COLUMBIA — The worry was that Hickman wouldn't have the legs, boys basketball coach David Johnson said. Less than 24 hours after their 65-61 finals win over Fort Zumwalt South at the Troy Tournament, how much energy could the Kewpies exert?
"I was certainly concerned about how our legs were gonna be," Johnson said Saturday at Columbia College's Southwell Complex following his team's win against Moberly in the Norm Stewart Classic.
WHAT: Norm Stewart Classic
WHERE: Columbia College's Southwell Complex
10:30 a.m. — Battle boys vs. Southern Boone
1:30 p.m. — Hickman girls vs. Troy
3 p.m. — Rock Bridge girls vs. Blue Springs
4:30 p.m. — Battle girls vs. St. Joseph's Academy
7:30 p.m. — Tolton boys vs. Mexico
The worry dissolved quickly.
The state's top-ranked Kewpies (5-0) used a full-court press that overwhelmed the Spartans, who had more turnovers than field goals through the game's first five minutes.
Hickman opened with 15 unanswered points and ran away to the 71-28 win. Ahead 40-14, the Kewpies continued their relentless run in the second half. They used a press defense again, and on two occasions, junior guard Jimmy Whitt snatched the ball away before Moberly could pass half-court. Whitt finished at the rim both times.
Minutes later, he rose above defenders under the basket and took a high-lofted alley-oop from Chris Clark to throw down his third dunk of the quarter.
Whitt, a Missouri recruit, led all scorers with 23 points and finished with eight steals. The University of Tennessee-Martin-bound Clark followed up with 21 points and seven rebounds. Senior Douglas Johnson added 13 points.
The trio has led the guard-reliant Hickman to its hot start.
"We know we lack in height," Whitt said. "(But) we know if we can get a team against our pressure, that's really playing to our strength, so that's what we're wanting to do."
Rock Bridge followed up the Kewpies with a hard-fought win.
Junior guard Ryan Kreklow (26 points) and senior guard Jackson Dubinski (24 points) closed out the Bruins' 71-61 victory against Kirkwood in a game that showcased the duo's increased responsibility on a team that lacks experience. Dubinski, who has assumed starting point guard duties after the transfer of former all-state selection Nick Norton, was shaking his head after the game.
He had eight of the Bruins' 21 turnovers on the day. Two of those came in the last quarter, where Kirkwood was able to reduce its 17-point halftime deficit to eight with three minutes left.
"A lot of it's on me," Dubinski said. "I need to take care of that being the point guard and leader on this team. We'll fix it up."
His late free throws, though, proved to be the difference down the stretch for the Bruins (5-0).
Kreklow's back-to-back 3-pointers midway through the first quarter gave Rock Bridge its first lead, one it would never relinquish. By halftime, he swished all four of his tries from beyond the arc and was 9-for-10 from the field with 22 points.
"Especially with Nick leaving, us guards got to step it up for what he's not bringing back to the table," Kreklow said. "I'm not afraid to shoot it because I know I'm one of the guys supposed to be holding up the team."