Macksville boys cap decade of playing together with Class 1A, Div. I title

Published: Mar. 12, 2023 at 12:47 AM CST
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DODGE CITY, Kan. (Catch it Kansas) - Six Macksville seniors have played basketball together since the second and third grades. Last year, the Mustangs came up just shy of a state championship game berth in what ended with a third-place finish. Saturday in Dodge City, all the years of work paid off. Macksville rode a 17-9 run in the third quarter to beat Wichita Classical 57-49 for the Class 1A, Div. I crown.

“We had a picture on Facebook this morning of their first MAYB tournament together,” Coach Jeff Kuckelman said. “It was just Macksville guys against all-star, hand-picked teams. They held their own and ended up getting a medal. It was several moons, several years ago when I put a medal around their neck at that MAYB tournament in Wichita and said this won’t be the last one.”

The pace was hot and heavy early on as the teams combined for 39 points in the opening frame. Macksville senior Lance Lickiss scored eight points in the first few minutes and ended the quarter with nine points and three rebounds. Classical senior Brett Buckingham was just as good on the other end with a pair of threes and 10 points in the frame. The Mustangs clung to a 20-19 lead.

“They played a lot faster than I thought they would,” Kuckelman said. “They were really flying the wings early in the game. I was screaming at us to get back. I thought we adjusted to that well and forced them to do something else. But early, they were really flying. I didn’t really expect that from them. They hadn’t really showed that.”

Classical junior Daniel Young warmed up in the second quarter. His first triple gave the Saints their first lead of the game at 29-27, and he kept them there 50 seconds later with another trey. Buckingham picked up a key third foul with 3:21 to play in the first half, yet the Saints battled on to a 40-39 lead on a transition bucket from junior Tait Sinclair with 65 seconds to play in the half. Classical had one last chance on a breakaway shot at the rim as time expired. That shot rimmed off, and a subsequent technical foul allowed the Mustangs to tie the game at 40 heading into the break.

“It’s the battle we thought it would be,” Kuckelman said. “That’s how it should be. It’s the state championship. We had seen enough of them to know they were going to hit shots, and they hit even more than I thought they would. They were really hot in the first half, yet we were still tied.”

Both teams blistered the floor in the first half, both shooting at least 52 percent. That began to change for Classical in the third quarter. The Saints shot just 25 percent from the floor in the third, compared to 62 percent on the other end. Macksville built a 52-42 lead before Buckingham scored the first Classical field goal in the second half more than five minutes in. Mustang senior Alexis Barron capped the period with a 3-pointer at the buzzer to keep the Macksville lead healthy at 57-49.

The Saints never truly threatened again. Six-foot-6 senior Ryan Kuckelman scored through a foul for a 63-56 score with 3:10 remaining. Classical looked content to foul in the final two minutes, but with just five team fouls, backed off that effort. Young and senior Jordy Dolloff each hit late threes for the Saints, but it was not enough to offset Macksville’s effort at the stripe. Barron made all four free throws in the final 61 seconds, and Kuckelman and senior Rogelio Ibarra each added a pair of shots from the line.

Buckingham finished with 15 points to lead Classical, followed by 13 points from Young, 12 from Dolloff, and nine from Carter Sinclair. Dolloff just missed a double-double with nine assists. The Saints, who knocked off top-seed Olpe to reach Saturday’s championship game, end the season at 23-3.

Lickiss may have had a career game, missing just once from the floor to finish with 20 points, 12 rebounds, and five assists. Kuckelman added 13 points and six assists, and Ibarra finished with 12 points. Barron finished with 11 points, Hector Gomez scored nine points, and Diego Esparza rounded out the balanced attack with eight points. Macksville ends its championship season at 24-2.