With Republic clinging to a 53-52 lead late in the fourth quarter against Nixa, Race Looney drove to the baseline, slipped, and slid on one knee. He kept his dribble, popped back up, then started to fall again as he leaned through a double-team in the lane.
But Looney kept his composure long enough to spy Trent Rackley in the opposite corner––and Rackley received Looney’s pass and splashed down a three pointer. It gave Republic a four-point lead and it was the biggest shot of the night, as the Tigers stayed unbeaten in the Central Ozark Conference with a 62-56 win over the Eagles.
“I got in there and I saw the 6’5″ kid standing in there, then one more guy came on me, so there’s two people on me, so I knew someone was open,” Looney said of his assist after the game. “So I was just scanning the floor, looking, looking, and I finally found Trent, and I kind of had to lean to make the throw, and I just fell over on the way.”
Rackley watched the play unfold from a distance.
“At first I was like, ‘I hope they don’t call a walk.’ Then was like like, ‘They didn’t call a walk. Oh, I’m wide open. I’m about to hit this shot,'” Rackley said.
Rackley raised up without hesitation, despite some recent shooting trouble–but he said he knew he was going to let it fly. “It felt good to finally see one go through the hole,” he said.
Coach Tim Brown said he remained hopeful as he watched, even though he could tell the play was breaking down.
“I was thinking … sometimes good things happen out of those busted plays. I was about a half a second away from calling a time out when he found Trent, and Trent made the biggest play of the night.”
Rackley’s shot gave Republic a four-point lead, and that was the final margin of victory. Drew McMillin and Broc Smith each hit two free throws to seal the win.
Republic had grabbed a six-point lead early in the second quarter at 24-18, but Nixa reeled off seven straight points to take a 25-24 lead with 3:25 remaining in the half. The Eagles led by as many as seven points before taking a 34-29 lead into the locker room.
“They had a guy jump up and make some shots at the foul line … and we tried to make sure that we were contesting a little better,” coach Tim Brown said of his team’s halftime adjustments. “And we tweaked our offense a little bit. We’re usually a team that sets a lot of screens off the ball … but we felt like we could take advantage of ball screens.”
The new-look offense in the second half helped open up the scoring for the Tigers, who outscored Nixa 19-11 in the third quarter. Republic led 48-45 as the fourth quarter began. The Tigers outscored Nixa 14-11 in the final period.
Broc Smith led Republic with 26 points, including 15 in the second half. Smith and three other seniors were honored before the game as part of Republic’s Senior Night festivities. The win could be the last time he competes with rival Nixa.
“It was a good [rivalry] and I’m glad we came out on top,” Smith said. “I wouldn’t want to do it with anyone else. I love these guys to death. It’s great … and it’s what I wanted to go out with.”
Smith, Cole Buxton, Jaden Duvall, and Trent Rackley were the four seniors recognized during the Senior Night ceremony. Brown said they will always be special to him as his first senior class at Republic.
“Those guys have been great. They’ve all kind of starred in their role. When you have seniors that accept their role and star in their role and kind of set the tone, it makes it easier to coach the rest of the basketball team,” said Brown. They were a class that accepted me with open arms.”
Republic’s win pushes their record to 18-6. The Tigers are 7-0 in the Central Ozark Conference and travel to Webb City Friday. Nixa falls to 11-12 overall and 3-3 in the COC.
Broc Smith 26, Race Looney 13, Drew McMillin 11, Trent Rackley 5, Joe Rexroat 3, Tucker Thomas 2, Jaden Duvall 2