Republic completed a perfect run through the Central Ozark Conference schedule Friday night with a 64-40 win at Webb City. The victory was the 20th of the season for the Tigers, and it equaled the 9-0 conference mark compiled by the Lady Tigers. Republic is the first school since at least the turn of the century to win the COC in boys and girls basketball without a loss in the same season.
“This is one of the prestigious leagues in our area–in our state,” said coach Tim Brown. “And you look at the fact that a lot of these teams beat up on each other all season long. You look at the number of games that we had that we had to grind out, and the high-level programs with the players and the coaches that are walking those sidelines. I think you have a team that wins the league and you can do it without a loss––that’s pretty special.
Friday night, the Tigers spoiled Webb City’s homecoming with tough defense and a strong offensive surge in the second half to pull away. Republic shut down the Cardinals in the first half, and Webb City didn’t help itself, either. The Cardinals missed several point-blank shots that would have kept the game even in the first quarter, but trailed 16-6 after the first eight minutes and 22-12 at halftime.
The Cardinals closed the gap to seven point early in the third quarter, but Race Looney and Broc Smith stepped up their scoring to help the Tigers re-take the momentum. Smith scored 11 points in the third quarter and Looney scored six, as the Tigers went on a 14-4 run to extend their lead to 17 heading into the final period, 41-24.
Brown said he and his assistant coaches were worried about a let-down, because the Tigers had clinched the conference championship earlier in the week against Ozark.
“But we came out and we defended. We were locked in on the defensive end and got a lot of rebounds,” Brown said. “We didn’t shoot it very well. We made some shots early, then kind of struggled. And some of that was we did a pretty good job of offensive rebounding and got extra possessions–and it was just extra misses, so it kind of seemed even worse. But I told our guys, let’s just keep guarding, and we’re going to make a run and get the separation that we want.”
Nine different players scored for Republic, including three in double figures, led by Drew McMillin with 17. Looney had 16 points and Smith finished with 14.
Brown believes his team is playing as well as it has all year heading into districts next week.
“I like our role definition, and I feel like our guys are extremely focused right now,” he said. “Our district is very tough, but I like where we’re at. I like the things we’re doing and I like our focus.”
Republic finishes the regular season with a 20-6 record. The Tigers were 9-0 in the COC. They’ll open districts Tuesday against Joplin or Carthage at 6:00 in Republic.
Drew McMillin 17, Race Looney 16, Broc Smith 14, Trent Rackley 7, Jaden Duvall 4, Will Berry 2, Tucker Thomas 2, Cole Buxton 1, Joe Rexroat 1