Catching up with … Ozark Tigers (B)
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — The Ozark Tigers saved some of its best basketball of the season for the Bass Pro Tournament of Champions this weekend as they took sixth and hung tough with a pair of national powers.
On Thursday, Ozark opened against 27-0 and TofC eventual champion Oak Hill, then posted an impressive win over Christ the King (New York) in the consolation side of the bracket on Friday.
The Tigers then fell in the fifth-place game in a heartbreaker to Wasatch Academy of Mount Pleasant, Utah, in the fifth-place game on Saturday.
“They did exactly what I asked them to do and any time a team does that, that is when a coach is proud,” Ozark head coach Mark Schweitzer said. “I thought we showed heart, some passion for the game, mental toughness. …
“I f we can play consistently that hard and do the little things.”
Leading the way has been 6’3 2018 shooting guard Quinn Nelson, who has put together a strong performance at the tournament shooting ball from 3-point range.
Nelson went for 25 points against Oak Hill, the eventual tournament champion, in the opening round on Thursday, scored 27 on Friday and added 29 more in a hard fought loss to nationally ranked Wasatch Academy on Saturday. He was one of 12 players named to the all-tournament team.
Despite being the focal point of opposing defenses, Nelson shot 50 percent from 3-point range and missed just one of his 17 free throw attempts.
“Credit to Quinn, he stepped up and I think he improved his stock,” Schweitzer said. “If some big time Division II programs and maybe even some small Division I programs don’t come calling I’m going to be disappointed.”
Schweitzer said it was big for Nelson and the Tigers to play well on the big stage after placing fourth at the Blue and Gold on the same court in late December.
Ozark (10-5) opened the season by capturing the Republic Tournament where they bear Belton, Rolla and Rogersville, then suffered a loss to Kansas’ power Blue Valley Northwest and were 6-1 heading into the Blue and Gold.
But after defeating Hollister in the first round and Clever in the quarterfinals, Ozark suffered a hard fought loss to Republic in the semifinals and a one-point loss to Rogersville in the third-place game.
Also coming up big for the Tigers over the weekend was 6’4 2018 forward Payton Nichols, who went for 20 points and nine rebounds in the Tigers’ win over Christ the King, and also had a terrific performance in Saturday’s dunk contest. Parker Hanks, a 2018 guard/forward, went for 10 points against CTK, and several others also put together solid performances throughout the tournament.
Ozark has a big game on the schedule coming out of the Tournament of Champions when they host Parkview on Friday.