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Playing with two point guards leads Nixa to sure-handed Blue & Gold semifinal win


SPRINGFIELD — A compelling development in an otherwise nondescript Nixa 45-39 Blue Division semifinal win Thursday was point guards Devon Kemp and Keivon Flint playing together more than any other game to date.

The combination of Kemp and Flint factored largely in Nixa committing only five turnovers on its way to its third Blue & Gold Tournament win against Fair Grove in as many years.

Kemp and Flint combined for 21 points, with Flint scoring a season-high 12.

Kemp and Flint are both juniors, but their experience as teammates prior to this season had been limited to a few summer ball games.

“It's our first year playing together. But surprisingly we've got chemistry fast,” Flint said. “We work really well together. I love playing with Devon. We find each other on the floor in different ways and always find each other open. Also, with me and him both out there, I feel it's so much easier for everyone else to get open.”

It’s fairly random between Kemp and Flint who brings the ball upcourt.

“We point to one another,” Flint said. “It's not a big deal. We have no problem who is getting the ball or who is not.” 

Flint is emerging as an intriguing prospect with serious upside. He’s probably as fast penetrating to the paint as any point guard in SWMO, but hasn’t always been able to keep his balance and be in position to score. Already this season, he’s shown improvement in regard to maintaining body control and finishing around the bucket.

“That's developed over time and with (added) strength,” Flint said. “I'm not huge. A lot of kids are bigger than me. So, it's a good thing to have control to help make my shots fall. Having more minutes, I'm becoming a stronger player and it's made my decision-making better.  

“I'm gaining a lot more confidence,” he added. “I’ve got to stay humble, be ready when coach puts me in, make good plays and have good minutes.”

Flint was rewarded for his play by being on the floor most of the fourth quarter alongside Nixa’s starters.

“We go into each game not knowing who is going to play a certain amount of minutes. Tonight, it worked out where it was Keivon's night,” coach Brock Blansit said. “I took him out one time and told my coaches, 'What are we doing, we've got to get him back out there.’ Keivon was awesome. I'm extremely happy with him. He handled the ball well, guarded well and made free throws.”

Nixa (8-3) was far from flashy on this night, but was fundamentally sound. In addition to their low turnover total, the winners were 15-of-18 at the free-throw line.

Nixa led by only a 36-33 count with 1:24 remaining. But Blansit’s bunch was in complete control come crunch time, thanks to owning the lead, being in the bonus and securing the ball.

“It's great when you've got a lead and know that when (the opponent is) going to come foul you, that you've got guys who can handle the ball,” Blansit said. “We did not have a turnover in the last 3-4 minutes and we knocked down our free throws.”

Fair Grove will receive the brunt of the blame for the game's slow pace. But both teams were content with long, drawn-out offensive possessions.

It was Nixa’s lowest scoring game since the Eagles put up only 44 points against Parkview last season. Nixa’s 45 points were 23 below its scoring average of 68.4 entering the night. 

"It wasn't pretty,” Blansit said. “I’m sure people who paid $12 (for admission) maybe didn't think it was the most exciting game. But we won't give (the win) back.”

Fair Grove (7-3) also lost to Nixa in a Blue & Gold semifinal game last season and remains in search of gaining what has been an elusive signature win.

"I know them real well. We played them last year and they've got everyone back,” Blansit said. ““They're going to be a tough out for somebody come District time. They've got a bunch of juniors and two seniors, so they're going to very good next year. They might be a (Blue & Gold) No. 1 seed next year.

“This was not a game I was looking forward to,” he added. “I kind of dreaded it all day because I knew it was going to be a grind. It's good for our kids to come out on top in a slow-paced game. That's not something we face a lot in our conference and District.”

Nixa advances to face Republic (8-3) in the Blue Division final at 8:30 p.m. Friday. Nixa has won four straight against the Tigers.

Nixa and Republic both won a Blue & Gold championship last season and haven’t met at the Blue & Gold since 2013.