Maize South basketball coach Kip Schultz gave credit to Nickerson High. He felt the underdog Panthers were better prepared and outworked the Mavericks all night.
But the Mavericks continue to play their best basketball when their backs are against the wall.
Maize South rallied from an 11-point deficit to stun Nickerson 47-45 Tuesday in a non-league basketball game. Nickerson led 29-20 on Joey Stockinger’s 3-pointer just as the third quarter was winding down when the Mavericks flipped the switch defensively.
The Panthers ended the third quarter with three turnovers and started the fourth quarter with three turnovers.
Maize South (5-6) outscored the Panthers 27-16 down the stretch and forced 11 turnovers in the final 10 minutes behind aggressive fullcourt defense. They outscored Nickerson 22-6 from the free throw line.
The Mavericks’ small lineup was ignited by defensive specialist DeSean Washington, who forced several turnovers and scored three fourth-quarter baskets in transition. The Mavericks were forced to play a small lineup when 6-foot-9 leading scorer Brett Barney missed the game with illness.
“That was DeSean’s best game of the season,” said Maize South coach Kip Schultz. “We’ve encouraged him to use his quickness to find the gaps in the defense. We’re a completely different team when we start playing defense like that. We seem to have to get behind before we find our intensity level on defense.”
Washington scored two transition baskets and Korie Frausto and Kade Kordonowy scored to give the Mavericks a 33-31 lead. The lead swung back and forth in the final five minutes. Clutch baskets by Nickerson’s Stockinger and Belden were matched by Kordonowy and Washington.
Free throws by Kordonowy and Micah Kiser handed the Mavericks a 46-42 lead.
Nickerson’s Connor Childs gave the Panthers a chance with a steal and 3-point play with 13.9 seconds left. Childs had nearly handed the Panthers the lead on a hustling rebound attempt with the score tied 42-42.
The Mavericks got a huge break when Kordonowy forced a tie ball after two missed Maize South free throws with 6.9 seconds left. Kordonowy made one free throw with 4.7 seconds left for a 47-45 margin. Nickerson, out of timeouts, missed a desperation 30-foot attempt by Ethan Belden.
Nickerson High (3-10) played its best basketball of the season. The Panthers, playing with confidence, had outhustled and outworked the Mavericks until the final 10 minutes.
“I give all the credit to Nickerson because they had a great game plan and executed it,” Schultz said. “Their coaches did a great job getting their team ready to play tonight. They kept us from getting good shots and were making all the hustle plays. For some reason, we seem to start off every game slow.”
Childs scored a career high 12 points. Supersub Ben Berridge chipped in 10 points in his best effort of the season.
"Connor Childs is one of our best athletes who played his best game of the season," said Nickerson coach Ryan Duft. "He is starting to gain confidence. We're making strides and we have guys playing better. We just can't seem to put four quarters together.”
Kordonowy led the Mavericks with 25 points. Maize South converted 22 of 33 free throws. After leading 29-20, the Nickerson committed 11 turnovers in the final minutes against the Mavericks' aggressive pressure. The Panthers ultimately cost themselves with 6 of 19 free throw shooting.
"Turnovers really hurt us," Duft said. "We dribbled the ball too much into trouble rather than passing the ball to a teammate. But the guys played with great effort and intensity."
The Panthers played perfectly with an 11-0 lead when Belden and Berridge each scored twice. The Panthers led 20-14 at halftime behind four second-chance baskets.
Nickerson missed a chance to go further ahead, but converted 2 of 11 free throw shooting that included three misses on one-and-ones.