OTTUMWA – No Tyon Grant-Foster? No problem.
Chris Childs stepped into the role of go-to player in the first overtime game at the Hellyer Student Life Center of the season. The sophomore transfer scored 24 points to lead fourth-ranked Indian Hills past Northeastern Oklahoma A&M, 77-74 in overtime, scoring 11 of IHCC’s 15 points in the extra five minutes including the game-clinching free throws with 13.3 seconds left.
“Anytime you lose a player at a time like that, it’s kind of hard. You need people to step up,” Childs said. “I knew I was going to have to do more and play harder. The beauty of our team is that, I may have been the one to step up and make big shots tonight, but we have a lot of players on our team and pieces all around that are capable of stepping up.”
J.D. Muila, the only two-year sophomore on the floor Friday night for the Warriors, also stepped up on the inside producing a 13-point, 13-rebound double-double. Drake Jeffries added 12 points for Indian Hills in the team’s first overtime test of the season.
“We’re not satisfied by this win. I feel like we could have played better,” Mulia said. “We still won the game, so I’m glad, but I think we could have done way better. I don’t think the game should have been that close.”
Playing for the first time this season with Grant-Foster, the team’s leading scorer with 23.3 points a game, the Warriors battled the Norsemen in an early-season gut check. Childs, who had 13 points last Friday to lead IHCC in a win over Three Rivers, more than made up for a short missed 3-pointer to end regulation, sinking a trio of 3-pointers in overtime including a clutch make with 51.2 seconds left that lifted Indian Hills to a 71-66 lead.
“It was weird not playing with Tyon, especially for me having played with him for two years now,” Muila said. “It was really hard, but we’re a team. If Tyon is down, someone else is going to step up. Chris Childs made some big shots. We’re still pretty good, even when Tyon is down.”
Northeastern Oklahoma A&M (3-3) refused to go away quietly, much as they did in the second half when the Norsemen rallied from nine points down to force overtime. Samkelo Cele tied the game with 2:38 left on a 3-point play before the teams exchanged a pair of 3-pointers to end regulation with Childs and Maurice Calloo each time snapping ties with makes for the Warriors. Gavis Harris answered each time for NEO, including a 3-pointer with 16.6 seconds left that tied the score at 62-62 and eventually forced overtime.
NEO would not score for nearly three minutes as Childs extended IHCC’s initial lead in overtime to 68-62. Rudi Williams, who finished with a game-high 32 points, hit four straight free throws for NEO to cut IHCC’s lead to 68-66 before Childs struck with the shot clock winding down in the final minute of overtime to put the Warriors up five.
“We knew that NEO was going to play a unique type of zone defense against us. Coach (Hank Plona) kept telling me all week that I was going to have a lot of openings,” Childs said. “I just had to be aggressive and play my game.
“We all know Chris is a very good shooter. I knew the day would come where Chris make a lot of shots. I guess that night was tonight,” Muila added.
Tyrese Nickelson appeared to put NEO away with a pair of free throws after an IHCC stop, giving the Warriors a 73-66 lead. Williams drew a foul, hit two free throws and drilled a step-back 3-pointer off a steal by Jadan Graves to pull NEO within 73-71 with 13.3 seconds left.
Childs finished off his 24-point night with a pair of free throws, giving Indian Hills a two-possession lead. Nickelson added two more free throws with 5.3 seconds left before Alvin Cannady’s 3-pointer with 1.4 seconds left kept NEO alive. Nickelson finally found Maurice Calloo on the final inbounds pass, allowing the Warriors to run out the clock and clinch a 5-0 start to the 2019-20 season.
“It’s a good feeling to step up in a win like this, but it’s still just one game,” Childs said. “It helps going into tomorrow. I just need to take the shots I’ve been taking my whole life and try to make a positive impact.”
Grant-Foster did not play on Friday after suffering an ankle injury late in last Saturday’s 74-61 IHCC win at State Fair. The future Kansas Jayhawk did not dress on Friday and is unlikely to play in Saturday’s contest with No. 23 Coffeyville (5-1), which concludes the 2019 Financial Partners Classic at the Hellyer Student Life Center starting at 7 p.m. Coffeyville handed No. 14 Southeastern its first loss of this season, 68-60 in Friday’s opening game, and handing IHCC its first loss last season winning by 17 points in Kansas last November.
“That game tomorrow is very personal. That game at Coffeyville last year really impacted my career in a negative way,” Muila said. “I got messed up mentally after that loss. I really want revenge. I’m looking forward to that game. I’m ready for it.”