A season of over-achievement for the Republic Tigers basketball team ended in disappointment Tuesday, in a 57-49 loss to Joplin in the district semifinals at Neosho. Joplin outscored Republic 34-20 in the second half to pull away and advance to the district title game against Nixa.
Republic had led by as many as seven points in the opening minutes of the second quarter, but that was the high point of the night for the Tigers, who struggled against foul trouble all evening. Broc Smith spent much of the second quarter on the bench, and Race Looney and Jaden Duvall also got into early foul trouble.
The Tigers led 24-23 at halftime, but Republic coach Trevyor Fisher says Joplin’s response early in the third quarter made the difference.
“I thought the key was at the start of the second half, they came out and hit three or four three-point shots and kind of got us on our heels a little bit,” Fisher says. “I don’t think we panicked so much, but it weighs on you as the game goes on. You know if you don’t win, you’re going home. That may have contributed to our shots not going in.”
Joplin grabbed a 34-32 lead heading into the fourth quarter and controlled the pace in the final eight minutes. The Eagles outscored Republic 23-17 down the stretch to secure the win. Hunter Creek, Republic’s only senior on the roster, did all he could to pull the Tigers back into contention, driving to the basket and drawing contact, then finishing at the free throw line. He scored eight of his 15 points in the fourth period.
“That’s what happens when you’re a senior. It hits you, and he kind of had to do some of that stuff to go against their athleticism. They’re a very talented and athletic team, and they’re not going to let you just pass the ball around,” Fisher says. “He did everything he could to try to get us over the hump. It just wasn’t quite enough.”
The Tigers ended their season with four consecutive losses, finishing with a 17-8 record. Despite the difficult ending, Fisher says he’ll remember the team as one that out-performed expectations.
“We can’t let this game or these few weeks tell the tale of how this team played all year long and gave great effort. It’s just unfortunate that it had to end tonight,” Fisher says.
The game was also Fisher’s last as Republic head coach. He’ll transition out of the job to become Republic’s activities director.
Has it sunk in that he’s coached his last game?
“It did a little bit there in the locker room, but it’s not about me. It’s about those guys,” Fisher says. “We’ll just focus on the good season we had. We tried to get the most out of this group, and I’m proud of their effort all season long.”