Nixa girls basketball

NIXA'S RHIANNA GIBBONS drives in between a pair of Kickapoo defenders for a layup.

From spectator to super soph, Nixa's Rhianna Gibbons took time to reflect with pride on the significant strides she made over the past year.

Gibbons showed off her athleticism while making steady progress all season and put everything together for quite the finale last week in Nixa's Class 5 District 11 title tilt loss to Kickapoo. She exploded for 20 second-half points as part of a career-high 22-point effort against the Lady Chiefs.  

"I went from sitting on varsity last year to starting this year and feel like I grew so much," Gibbons said. "I played with amazing players who made everyone around them better. It's been the best experience for me."

Her Lady Eagles teammates see star potential in Gibbons.

"I could not be more proud of her," guard Gabby Nielsen said. "I knew she had it in her for a long time. (Against Kickapoo), it really showed."
 
"She's a baller," forward Kenzie Hines added. "The way she stepped up foreshadows the next two years. I can't wait to see what she does."
 
Gibbons credited Hines' leadership, in particular, for helping her feel comfortable in her first true go-around at the varsity level.
 
"I'm so glad Kenzie came back and played this year," she said. "I'm glad I got to experience this season with her."
 
As thrilled as the Lady Eagles were to see Gibbons break out against Kickapoo, the Lady Chiefs were frustrated by not being able to stop her during her 14-point fourth quarter, compounded by having repeated troubles completing an in-bounds pass against Nixa's defensive pressure. Gibbons' counterpart, Kickapoo guard Leah Fredrick, took obvious exception to Gibbons hounding her on attempted in-bounds passes.
 
After a flareup by Fredrick, officials separated the two and talked to them to try to keep them composed.
 
"I had my hand on her, you're allowed to do that," Gibbons said of her efforts to keep tabs of Fredrick prior to the ball being in-bounded. "She was getting a little mad, that was good. Getting all those five-second calls we got on them was amazing. We really fought."
 
Even with Kickapoo losing stars to injuries, the Lady Chiefs feature premier athletes along their front line in Rachel Senn and Indya Green. Gibbons wasn't deterred while driving to the lane and maneuvering around them for layups or drawing fouls.  
 
"They're big players and sure, they can stop you or swat you," she said. "But you can't be scared of them." 

Gibbons also impressed with her resilience. She shook off several misses from 3-point land against Kickapoo, before hitting a trio of treys. 

"You're going to miss some, so you've got to keep shooting," she said. "They're going to fall eventually and they did start to fall for me."

No one should ever categorize Gibbons as a stationary 3-point shooter. She has 3-point range, but doesn't relegate herself to standing at the arc. She is also a slasher.

 
"I like to do both," she said. "I feel like I'm really good after contact (on drives to the hoop) and I like the corner 3 and sometimes the wing 3. I try to come out and do everything I can."  

Gibbons and fellow sophomore Ali Kamies represent a big part of Nixa's future. Their class previously included Riley and Avery Arnold and Carly and Mackenzie Simpson, before the two sets of twins transferred to Blue Eye and Clever. Gibbons still plays club ball with the Arnolds for a Yanders Law 16U outfit. 

"It's been kind of a hit," Gibbons said. of the departures "If everyone stayed here, we would have had a really good class. You play with what you've got." 

(1) comment

Rj

She has a beautiful outside shot and is going to be a really good player with the correct development. Kickapoo had a big lead and decided not to foul when she drove to the basket. It would have been different if the game was closer. No need to stop the clock for a free throw when you have a big lead.

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