The last undefeated team in Missouri Class 5 took a collective, slow stroll off the Mizzou Arena floor late Thursday. Before the Lee’s Summit Tigers disappeared into the locker room, the players approached a scoreboard in the corner of the venue.
Senior Nick Larkin looked up.
“This,” he would say, softly, “was weird.”
The unusual feeling?
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Springfield Kickapoo defeated Lee’s Summit 85-81 in the Missouri Class 5 boys semifinals late Thursday at Mizzou Arena, ending the Tigers’ bid for their first state championship.
Lee’s Summit will play St. Louis University High School in the third-place game at 12:45 p.m. Friday.
“You don’t want to have your only loss come in the postseason,” Lee's Summit coach Blake Little said. “But we got beat tonight by a team that was better than us tonight.”
A game established on a don’t-blink-or-you-might-miss-something pace lived up to its billing.
But while Kickapoo held up its end of the bargain on offense, Lee’s Summit failed to keep up after halftime. The Tigers endured an unexpected sequence between two high-powered offenses.
Lee’s Summit went 4:13 without a field goal, allowing Kickapoo to turn a five-point lead into an insurmountable 18-point advantage in the fourth quarter.
Lee's Summit, 29-1, fought back and cut the deficit to four points but couldn’t draw closer.
“They gave us fits tonight. I thought ultimately it was that little stretch there that was our undoing,” Little said. “But I’m proud of the effort and disappointed in (only) the outcome."
The Tigers left disappointed.
The fans left fulfilled.
In one first-half sequence, the teams traded three baskets in a span of only 10 seconds, flipping the lead back-and-forth during the exchange. The lead changed five times in the first two quarters alone.
“They’re pretty similar teams, aren’t they?” Kickapoo coach Dick Rippee said. “I told our guys I think that was a game our guys were going to have a lot of fun playing.”
Kickapoo guard Niekie Thomas-Fontleroy drained a three-pointer 1 second before the halftime buzzer, giving his team a 40-39 edge. Kickapoo, 29-2, never relinquished it. Isaac Johnson led the Chiefs with 22 points.
Larkin and Isiah Sears scored 22 each for Lee’s Summit.
“It was a fun game to be in,” Sears said. “But we didn’t come out with a victory. We’ll get one (Friday)."