SIOUX CITY, Iowa — It came with 7:13 left in the game and seemed largely meaningless, given the 42-point deficit at the time.
But Kyler Nixon's first career 3-point basket was anything but meaningless. Less than two months ago, the Council Bluffs Lewis Central sophomore wondered if he'd ever be able to do any strenuous physical activity again, let alone play in a varsity basketball game.
Last February, doctors ordered Nixon to stop any activity that would place undue stress on his heart. They feared he had hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM), a genetic disease in which the heart muscle thickens abnormally. It's not hard to find examples of young athletes dying on the court or field, because they didn't know they had HCM.
But chest pains last season led to tests, and for eight months Nixon, a four-sport athlete, watched his friends from the sideline. That changed in the first week of October, when Nixon was cleared to play. The thickness in the walls of his left ventricle has returned to normal, and he is back in action.
On Tuesday, Nixon came off the bench to score five points in Lewis Central's season-opening 75-34 loss to Sioux City East.
“I wasn't really nervous. I was more excited,” said the 6-foot-4 Nixon. “I was glad to be able to go back out on the court and play with my guys.”
Lewis Central coach Dan Miller said despite the outcome, it was great to see Nixon back in varsity competition.
“We're excited to have him back and glad for him, first of all that he's healthy,” he said. “That's the No. 1 thing. Basketball is basketball, and you're going to have some nights like this. But I'm glad that he's healthy.”
Nixon's parents, Steve and Jenny, watched excitedly from the bleachers.
“We just feel blessed for him to get a second chance,” Steve Nixon said.
For months, the Nixons were forced to consider a life for their sports-crazy son without sports. That October trip to the doctor's office was filled with tension.
“I don't know if surprised is the word, but we were just kind of bracing for the worst,” Steve Nixon said. “When he said he could play, we kind of looked at each other and we were like, 'Did he just say what we thought he said?'
“When we got out of the doctor's office, a lot of hugs, a lot of tears. It was a pretty special moment.”
Eight months of no physical exertion greatly affected Nixon's return to the court.
“I was pretty surprised at how out of shape I was,” he said. “I've got a long ways to go, but I feel like every day I'm getting better.”
The Titans know they have to get a lot better after getting blown out by the Black Raiders, last year's Class 4-A state runner-up. East raced to a 30-5 lead after one quarter, forcing 14 turnovers in the process. The Titans coughed it up 28 times in all against East's relentless pressure.
The Black Raiders showed they will be just fine without 7-foot-1 center Adam Woodbury, now at Iowa. Marcel Dunson led the Black Raiders with 23 points, including 14 in the first quarter.
“They've got obviously a different looking team, but they've still got good athletes,” Miller said. “They pressured us. We did not do anything that we'd gone over the first two weeks.
“We'll get it fixed. That was not the way we will play the rest of the year.”
The Titans played without senior Alex Reed, who ranked second on the team with 13.8 points per game last year but broke his collarbone in football. He suited and is hopeful to return soon.
Miller knows Reed probably wouldn't have made a 41-point difference. But his presence might have helped the Titans gather themselves early.
“He's a huge calming influence on us,” Miller said. “We're obviously kind of rudderless, so to speak. I wasn't expecting us to come up here and set the world on fire, but I wasn't expecting us to come up and play like we did either.”
Kyler Nixon was just happy to be wearing a uniform and competing. He's gained a new appreciation for everything associated with basketball.
Even the sprints.
“I cherish running in practice now,” he said with a smile.
CB Lewis Central (0-1) ................. 5 9 6 14—34
Sioux City East (1-0) ................. 30 16 16 13—75
LC: Lincoln Rodenburg 1-1 0-0 2, Mitch Moran 0-2 0-0 0, Toby Korner 3-10 1-2 7, Ryan Waldron 1-1 0-1 2, Tony Rew 2-7 2-2 8, Cody Cook 0-2 0-0 0, Weston Morgan 0-0 0-0 0, Brook DeMarque 1-1 0-0 2, Kyler Nixon 2-5 0-0 5, Kyle Larson 0-1 0-0 0, Tanner Mathews 2-2 0-0 5, Nate Pettepier 1-2 0-0 2, JB Baker 0-3 1-2 1, Conner Hanafan 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 13-37 4-7 34.
SCE: Marcel Dunson 10-20 2-3 23, Gregory Kirwan 5-6 3-4 13, Taylor Delaughter 2-3 2-2 6, Wyatt Mounts 5-9 3-5 13, Chase Kern 1-3 0-1 2, Carter Lilly 1-5 0-0 2, Blake Lynch 3-3 0-0 8, Simeon Moes 1-4 0-0 2, Connor Treft 0-2 0-0 0, Benjamin Steenhoven 0-4 0-0 0, Jordan Betts 1-2 0-0 2, Alexander Stueve 0-0 2-2 2, Andre Harris 0-2 0-0 0, JJ Stephens 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 30-64 12-17 75.
3-point goals: LC 4-13 (Rew 2-5, Mathews 1-1, Nixon 1-4, Pettepier 0-1, Moran 0-2). SCE 3-13 (Lynch 2-2, Dunson 1-3, Lilly 0-1, Betts 0-1, Harris 0-1, Steenhoven 0-1, Mounts 0-2, Treft 0-2). Total fouls: LC 10, SCE 12. Fouled out: none. Technical fouls: none. Rebounds: LC 22 (Korner 6), SCE 33 (Mounts 7). Assists: LC 5 (Korner 2), SCE 17 (Lilly 4, Delaughter 4, Mounts 4). Steals: LC 1 (Mathews), SCE 17 (Delaughter 4). Turnovers: LC 28, SCE 8.
SC East girls 56, CB Lewis Central 26
Six-foot senior Tara Schwaderer finished with 20 points, 13 points, four steals and four assists as the Black Raiders opened their season with an easy victory.
East scored the first 15 points of the game and led 36-14 when Schwaderer sank a 3-pointer at the halftime buzzer from several feet behind the line.
Aubrey Norville had eight points for Lewis Central, which dropped to 1-1.
CB Lewis Central (1-1) ................. 4 10 2 10—26
SC East (1-0) ................. 21 15 16 4—56
LC: Natalie Madsen 3, Lexi Spielman 2, Shelby Simonin 3, Aubrey Norville 8, Kye Madsen 5, Asia Sockrider 2, Amy Pedersen 3.
SCE: Jordyn Anderson 7, Allysen Fuller 8, Tara Schwaderer 20, Kylee Goodvin 2, Sidney Hildahl 9, Harlee Bauman 2, Hanna Vanderloo 8.
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