On consecutive trips to the foul line, Kingman’s Mitchell Packard went 4-4 to put the Eagles up by six with 1:47 remaining in the game. At that point, it became a matter of who else could sink their free-throws. Both teams proved they could, Nickerson’s Ethan Belden and Ryan O’Toole responded in the following 20 seconds by each going 2-2, but Eagle Brandon Bradshaw did the same, as the Eagles held on to a 55-51 lead.
After a Panther player stepped out of bounds with 11.9 seconds remaining, the Panthers fouled Kingman guard Cody New, who made one of two to make it a two-possession ballgame. Belden was allowed an uncontested layup, which failed to go in. And with less than a second remaining, Kingman’s Braxton Bangert was sent to the line. Bangert sank both to end things with a six-point advantage.
Kingman head coach Steve Bangert could not pin their success on only one thing, but the defense was near the top of the list.
“Defensively, I was really pleased with the first half. They run a lot of really good sets, and they did get us a few times in the second half, but I just felt if we kept the tempo of the game, we would just wear them down,” said Bangert.
And wear them down is exactly what the Eagles did.
“Some of those turnovers toward the end by them were just from fatigue, and our kids did a pretty good job of getting after it. We got some big buckets off some turnovers that kept us in the lead, or got us back in the lead. We also got some big free-throws down the stretch,” said Bangert.
A reliable bench helped keep Kingman fresh.
“We go nine deep. There are some guys in that nine that don’t play quite as many minutes as the rest, but they can give us blows for minutes,” Bangert said.
Bradshaw, a 6-3 sophomore, was nearly unstoppable through much of the game. In the first quarter alone, he accounted for seven of the Eagles’ nine points. He even spent time on the bench during that time frame, as Bangert sent 6-3 senior Hunter Noblit in to give Bradshaw a breather. Bradshaw would go on to net 25 for Kingman to lead all scorers.
“He’s starting to figure it out,” Bangert said of the young player. “He just needs to play like that the entire time he’s on the court. He was aggressive tonight, and he’s been showing signs of that lately. He just needs to continue that.”
Packard also significantly helped the Eagles’ offensive cause, as he scored 15.
Nickerson had a balanced scoring attack, with four in double figures. O’Toole and Connor Childs each scored 12, while Belden and Stockinger both pitched in 10.
Bangert indicated his team’s biggest weakness against Nickerson was its accuracy from behind the three-point line. That will be a major factor as the Eagles, 7-11, prepare to face Hillsboro at home on Tuesday.
“The key for us is to get in the 60s. Our defense has been good enough to win ball games. We can’t clamp down and hold someone to 38 points, but we can keep them in the low 50s. We just need to get to 60,” he said.
The Panthers, now 5-13, will face Lyons on the road Tuesday.