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No unnerving Peters and no beating Nixa within COC for fourth straight season

NIXA'S JOSH PETERS drives to the paint while defended by Ozark's Hudson Roberts on Friday.
NIXA'S JOSH PETERS drives to the paint while defended by Ozark's Hudson Roberts on Friday.

As early as his freshman year, Josh Peters had already established an image for himself as ‘Mr. Nice Guy’ in Nixa’s hallways and classrooms.

Imagine then the surprise and disbelief of his teachers and peers when he received an after-school detention as a freshman.

“They were like, ‘Why are you in the counselor's office, what did you do?’” Peters said. ‘I had a couple tardies for a class, that was it.”

Likewise, Peters’ reputation is that of an even-keel, steady Eddy.

Peters’ performance in Nixa’s 69-52 COC championship clinching triumph versus Ozark on Friday was a microcosm of his personality. He shook off a nondescript, four-point first half to hit a trio of 3-point goals in the second half and finish with a game-high 17 points.

"In the first half, I wasn't making anything and wasn't getting a couple calls I wanted,” he said. “But I kept shooting. Some games, if I don't like my defense or I'm not getting the looks I want, that brings me down. But at the end of the day you've got to keep shooting and in low times, you've got to keep a level head. There are times you want to be on an adrenaline rush to get other guys fired up. But I've pretty much always been level-headed.”

“After a game you wouldn't know if Josh had 30 points or zero points,” Eagles coach Brock Blansit said. “He's always even keel. Big games like this, nothing really rattles him.”

Ironically, ‘Mr. Nice Guy’ went to a corner Friday. Of course, he wasn’t sent there. He repeatedly and purposely gravitated toward the same corner of the court, in front of Nixa’s bench, where he swished all three of his 3-pointers.

“I had a lot of practice with (the corner 3) last year,” Peters said. “I love that shot. I started getting some kick-outs in the second half and was able to knock them down.”

Peters had 3s on consecutive trips downcourt in the third quarter to give Nixa a 50-35 lead that proved insurmountable.

The Eagles maintained a comfortable lead the rest of the way.

Nixa (20-6 overall and 9-0 in the COC) upped its streak of outright COC championships to four and pushed its COC winning streak to 40 games.

In the Eagles’ last 49 COC games, they are 48-1. The lone defeat during that span came at the hands of Ozark in February of 2020. 

“We wanted to keep the streak alive,” Peters said. “Undefeated conference champs, that's something we can always say.

“It's good to win the conference again, that's good for Nixa basketball,” said Eagles forward Adam McKnight, who scored 15 points.

Of historical note for Ozark was center Jace Whatley netting 14 points to join the Tigers’ 1,000 point club in the fourth quarter. In a classy move, Nixa fans joined Ozark fans by providing a nice round of applause in recognition of Whatley’s milestone moment.

"He's been a presence in the paint for us for three years,” Tigers coach Mark Schweitzer said. “I’m very proud of him.”

It appeared early on Whatley might get to 1,000 by halftime. He made his first three field-goal attempts and was 6-of-8 from the field in the first half.

Nixa center Jackson Cantwell played a big part in the Eagles limiting Whatley to just two points in the second half.

“I seriously thought Jackson was the MVP tonight, “ Blansit said. “I call Jace the 'Nixa Killer’ because he absolutely kills us. When he catches it (under the basket), he's going to score every time. But Jackson got him pushed out of his spot. I thought Jackson did a good job pushing him out to 8-9 feet to make it tougher on him.”

‘The Big Three’ of Whatley, Hudson Roberts and Kylan Pickren combined for 33 points, after teaming for 63 points earlier in the week against Joplin. Whaltey was 6-of-12 shooting, Roberts 5-of-9 and Pickren 2-of-5.

Ozark’s offense was plagued by 10 first-half turnovers and 15 giveaways for the game.

“I thought the game was physical and we didn't handle it well,” Schweitzer said. “We’ve got to be ready to handle that, if it's a physical game again (at Districts) next Thursday.”

“I was more happy with our defense than anything else,” said Blansit, who celebrated his 50th birthday Friday. “I thought for the most part we made them work for their shots. They didn't get many easy shots. Randy (Flint) and Keivon (Flint) put a lot of pressure on the guards, no matter who we're playing.”