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Ozark offensive struggles continue, as Tigers drop sixth straight to Kickapoo


SPRINGFIELD — Operating with many of the same players as last season, Ozark’s offense hasn’t picked up this season where the Tigers left off. 

“There’s not really a question there, it’s a statement,” coach Mark Schweitzer said in his post-game presser in response to that observation following Ozark’s 60-52 loss at Kickapoo on Tuesday. “I agree with it 100 percent.”

The Tigers barely got to the 50s. It took a 3-pointer at the buzzer by Kylan Pickren to keep them from languishing in the 40s for the third time in four games.

Ozark (2-5) was only at 28 points through three quarters. 

The Tigers aren’t making a good name for their motion offense by not moving with or without the ball.

“We didn’t have good ball movement and we weren’t cutting like we were supposed to,” guard Hudson Roberts said. “We’ve got to clean those things up. I think once we can pick those things up, our offense can be pretty good. But we’ve got to figure it out.

“In Kansas City (for the Blue Springs Tournament two weeks ago), we got to (59) one game. The other two were in the 40s,” he added. “At the end of the year last season, we picked (our offense) up. We’re not looking to wait that long this year.”

Ozark’s scoring included a game-high 26 points by Roberts, 12 by forward Jace Whatley, 10 by Pickren and two apiece by Manny Stover and Ryan Engel.

A similar script played out in the Tigers’ first six games.

“We had to tweak some things after our first six games. We’ve struggled to score,” Schweitzer said. “We’re having a hard time having people step up besides Hudson to consistently produce. We’ve got to find some help in the scoring column.” 

Ozark’s losing streak to Kickapoo reached six games over four seasons.

The Chiefs received 18 points from Reese Kimrey.

The Tigers faced a double-digit deficit much of the second half and never posed a serious threat down the stretch.

In the pre-season, this seemed like an opportune time for the Tigers to finally enjoy success against the Chiefs. Kickapoo does not feature overwhelming talent that it has had in recent seasons. Also, this Chiefs outfit was relatively inexperienced at the outset of this season, seemingly making them vulnerable. 

Yet, Kickapoo (9-1) has knocked off Parkview, Nixa and now Ozark. One could point to Chiefs coach Mitch McHenry for the best job coaching in SWMO thus far.

“They’re a very well-coached, disciplined team,” Roberts said. “All five guys they put on the court, they’re going to play hard and they know their roles. It’s hard to beat that."

“They play harder than we do,” Schweitzer said. “They play more disciplined than we do. They take charges. We only have only one kid who consistently tries to take charges, the rest of them duck out of the way. (Kickapoo is) better coached than we are. I’ve got to do a better job.”

Schweitzer and Roberts are optimistic Ozark’s offense can be upgraded, similar to last season, when the Tigers averaged 60.4 points a game while going 8-3 over their final 11 games.

“I know Schweitzer is going to get us through this,” Roberts said. “We’re down, but we’ll be fine. I have all the confidence in the world in my guys. We’re going to get it going and start dominating.”

“We’ll keep working on it and keep trying things and see what we can get out of these kids,” Schweitzer said. “I don’t give up. Anyone who knows me knows I never give up. I’ll just keep trying to push the right buttons.

“I’ve had success teaching kids how to play motion, getting five guys to work together,” he added. “It was a struggle (early) last year. It’s turned into the same struggle this year. I’ll keep watching film, we’ll keep practicing and try to get this fixed.”