The young Branson Lady Pirates played like the team with all the experience Monday night, beating Republic 50-44 to capture a share of the central Ozark conference championship. Both teams finished the conference season with 6-1 records.
Despite starting two sophomores and two freshmen, Branson never looked intimidated against the more experienced Lady Tigers. Republic jumped to an early lead, but the Lady Pirates never let the game get out of hand. They trailed 14-12 after one quarter, and tied the game again briefly before a Lexis Ladwig three-pointer gave Republic a 28-25 lead at halftime.
Republic head coach Kris Flood says his team never felt like it had any momentum, even though the Lady Tigers knew a win would give them the outright league title.
“This one hurts. We didn’t look like we were ready to go from the get-go,” he says. “It’s kind of hard to explain. I hadn’t really seen that out of this group in a long time. We’d been playing so well and on a pretty good roll. It’s just disappointing, our effort tonight.
“I told the kids I thought we played tight–almost a little nervous, a little scared, and afraid to just let go. ”
The turning point was the 3rd quarter. Branson outscored Republic 10-5 in the opening minutes to take a lead, and stayed in control most of the rest of the way.
“We had a hard time getting stops,” says Flood. “I don’t know if they’re just bad matchups for us or what, but we had a hard time controlling that penetration, and they were finding the open person and scoring. We weren’t getting anything out of the press.”
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At the other end of the floor, Branson shut down the Lady Tigers’ offense. Republic also had a hard time hitting from the outside over the top of the zone defense.
“They did a heck of a job against us defensively. That 1-3-1 [zone], we knew that’s what they were going to run,” Flood says. “It’s hard to simulate it. They do a good job containing that penetration and keeping everything in front. Nothing really gets to the middle. We were ice cold from the outside. We flat out just didn’t play well and we deserved to get beat.”
Brooke Stanfield led the Lady Tigers with 13 points. No one else had more than six. Brylee Argo scored six points. Jordan Kabetske, Michayla Shanks, Micah Mansker, and Jade Sawyer had five each. Lexis Ladwig scored three, and Tori Taylor had two points.
Flood says it’s important for Republic to bounce back quickly for the regular-season finale.
“Hopefully we have a decent practice tomorrow. We’ll have to be ready to play for Roegersville Wednesday night,” he says. “We definitely don’t want to be going in with two losses going into districts.”
Republic falls to 21-3. Branson improves to 14-11.