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Osborne credits CBC for ‘taking away our strengths and exposing our weaknesses’

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SPRINGFIELD — Throughout his 30 seasons as Nixa’s coach, Jay Osborne has been both commended and condemned for telling it like it is.

Osborne stayed true to himself through his Eagles finale by expressing what he saw as the truth following Nixa’s 68-51 loss to Christian Brothers College on Friday in the Class 6 State championship game.

“We got beat by a better team today and there’s no shame in that,” Osborne said. “They were a lot better team than we were. They were the best team we’ve played (all season). They have size, length, shooters, strength and speed. They have the whole package. That’s why they beat us.”

Nixa (28-4) was able to count on point guard Colin Ruffin having the ball in his sure-handed hands while breezing through its COC slate and sweeping a pair of games from Kickapoo this season. But CBC dared to force the issue and tried to keep the ball away from Ruffin.

The Cadets often face-guarded Ruffin on in-bounds passes, forcing other players to bring the ball upcourt opposite relentless pressure by the Cadets.

The result was 21 Eagles turnovers, unofficially a season-high for Nixa and surely so by a wide margin.

“They took away our strengths and exposed our weaknesses,” Osborne said. “CBC had a little different quickness to them. They made it hard for us to do certain things. It was hard for us to get in any sets with their quickness, pressure and speed. They gave us a lot of problems.

“Thirty-two minutes of that pressure and bumping and mis-direction stuff, it’s tough. It wears on you,” he added. “Sometimes, you run into teams you don’t match up well with and this was one of those times tonight. They are a lot better in person than they are on film. I saw that last night when I saw them in the semifinals.”

CBC was so impressive that perhaps Class 4 finalist Vashon isn’t the best team in the state, as many insiders have thought all season.

We took their ball handlers away as much as we could,” CBC coach Justin Tatum said. “I wanted the other guys to handle the ball and see if they could make plays.” 

Nixa’s last lead was 22-21, not surprisingly on a Jordyn Turner 3-point goal. Turner had four 3-pointers and 14 points in the first half. He finished 6-of-7 from 3-point land while scoring 20 points.

“He basically kept us in it for a long time,” Osborne said. “If he wouldn’t have had a special first half, we wouldn’t have been in the game.”

The Eagles trailed by four, 31-27, at halftime.

“We knew we were in a tough spot. But I don’t think going into halftime anybody came into the locker room thinking, “We can’t win this,’” center Jaret Nelson said. “We were going to figure it out. Unfortunately, we didn’t.”

“The Hughes kid took over and dominated the game in the second half. He was a difference-maker,” Osborne said, referring to CBC’s Larry Hughes Jr., the son of former CBC, SLU and NBA standout Larry Hughes Sr.

Hughes had 14 of his 20 points in the second half.

CBC’s half-court defense was just as solid as its full-court pressure. Ruffin, who joined Nixa’s 1,000-point club in the Eagles’ semifinal win Thursday, did not make a field goal. He only attempted three field goals.

Ditto for Kael Combs.

“Colin and Kael took a combined six shots, that had everything to do with their defense,” Osborne said.

Ruffin was 9-of-11 at the free-throw line to finish his Nixa career with 1,011 points.

By the time the third quarter ended and CBC was in control, 48-36, the Eagles already had 18 turnovers.

The Cadets, who featured 7-foot-2 center John Bol, blocked seven Nixa shots.

Nixa finishes as a State runner-up for the second time under Osborne.

“I’ll walk out of here with a lot of pride and feel good about what we did this year,” Osborne said. “Our basketball team played extremely well late in the year and carried us into this final. We got a lot of mileage out of our players. They performed at a high level for a long time. There are 500 schools across the state that would love to be in a State final.”

CBC (68) — Martin 5-11 5-8 18, Hughes 6-10 5-7 20, Johnson 3-4 1-1 7, Bol 3-5 2-2 8, Huston 3-7 0-1 6, Abdul-Hamid 0-4 3-4 3, Holmes 1-1 2-2 4, Ross 0-0 2-2 2. Totals 21-42 20-27 68.

NIXA (51) — Ruffin 0-3 9-11 9, Turner 7-8 0-0 20, Combs 1-3 4-7 6, Bell 1-5 0-0 2, Nelson 4-9 0-2 8, Engelman 0 2-2 2, Kemp 2-2 4.

CBC 12 19 17 20 - 68

Nixa 11 16  9 15 - 51

3-point goals - Turner 6, Martin 3, Hughes 3. 

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