Log in

With NIT opening round on tap tonight, Eagles in need of more trips to free-throw line


Among the many talents Kael Combs showed off during his Nixa career was his head-snap. He drew countless fouls from awe-inspired referees by snapping his head back nearly every time he penetrated and a defender approached him.

The head-snap made it appear he had been hacked by the defender, whether there was actual contact or not.

“He was great at it,” Eagles forward Josh Peters said of his former teammate's ability to bait calls from unsuspecting officials.

Nixa has missed Combs on many fronts this season, perhaps most notably at the free-throw line. Entering Thursday’s NIT opening round, the Eagles are shooting free throws at a far less frequent rate than they did during the Combs era.

Combs’ senior season saw him shoot 212 free throws, an average of 7.3 freebies a game.

No one expected Nixa to have anyone shoot near that many free throws this season. But the Eagles may not have anyone shoot 100 free throws.

“We've got to get to the line more, no doubt about it,” coach Brock Blansit said. “We’ve got to be making at least 10 free throws a game. Right now, we’re not doing that.”

Peters, who is averaging a team-high 12.4 points a game, has followed through on his concentrated effort to drive to the basket more this season than he did a year ago. But fouls and free throws haven’t ensued nearly as much as he’d like.

“I'm not getting any calls,” Peters said. “I talked to (teammate Bryce Foster) about how to get foul calls. I said, ‘I drive, but l don't get any foul calls.’ He told me, ‘You’ve got to put your head back and maybe act a little bit.’”

Blansit thinks the head-snap is an instinctive reaction that few players can recall and play out during the heat of a moment.

“That's not something you can teach,” Blansit said. “It's something a kid does or he doesn’t.”

Nixa is shooting free throws with 65-percent success.

“We're making them when we get there, it's just not enough,” Blansit said.

Nixa meets Cape Notre Dame (7-10) in Thursday’s opening round tourney action.

Notre Dame is coming off of losses by margins of 22 and 20 points and earlier this seaon suffered losses by 38 and 35 points. All 10 of Notre Dame’s losses have been by double digits.

The NIT’s main individual attraction will be New Madrid County Central senior forward Jadis Jones. He’s had games of 45 points and 19 rebounds against Malden and 43 points and 16 rebounds against Charleston

Last season, Jones was the Class 3 Player Of The Year after leading New Madrid to the Class 3 state championship.

Jones initially committed to play college football at Coastal Carolina, but announced last month he’s looking to shoot hoops in college. He was among the recruits who took in Mizzou’s loss to Florida last week.

Jones and New Madrid guard BJ Williamson combined for 57 points against Nixa last season at the NIT.

New Madrid (14-1) was handed its only loss, 72-70, by undefeated Sikeston.

The rest of the tourney field includes Park Hill (8-7), Rogersville (12-2), Hillcrest (8-9), Marquette (7-8) and Troy (9-7).

Park Hill beat defending Class 6 state champ Staley 69-68 last week.