Jazzy Kirby did more in ten seconds than most people do all day.
Kirby, a sophomore, made two free throws to break a 35-35 tie with ten seconds remaining in the district championship game. She intercepted a pass at the other end of the floor to stop Willard from getting off a game-tying or game-winning shot. Then she made two more free throws to seal a 39-35 victory and a district championship.
“My heart was beating so fast and I tried to take some deep breaths and calm down, and when I got to the line I just kept telling myself ‘I can make it,'” Kirby said of the first two free throws. “It was such a nerve racking experience.”
Republic had trailed when the fourth quarter began, 31-30, but the defense tightened up in the final period as Republic held Willard to just four points over the last eight minutes. Unfortunately for Republic, they were unable to capitalize because of poor shooting down the stretch. During one sequence, Republic missed three layups that would have given the Lady Tigers a more comfortable lead. Instead, Willard remained within a possession right until the final seconds.
On Willard’s final possession, Republic played full-court defense, but Willard broke the pressure and appeared to be in position to get a good look with a chance to tie or win. But Kirby was in the right place at the right time.
“We just couldn’t foul and were trying to play straight up full-court defense,” she said. “I was over by the Willard student section because they broke the press and it got tipped around, and I grabbed it as fast as I could and got fouled again.”
Kirby said after making the tie-breaking free throws, she felt better about her second trip to the foul line.
“It was an absolutely amazing experience, and after those first two free throws went in and I walked up to the free throw line, I knew that I could seal the deal,” she said.
“That was a big moment for a sophomore to step up and hit those couple free throws, then (get) the stop and hit a couple more,” said coach Kris Flood.
Before Kirby’s late-game heroics, other players stepped up at different moments for the Lady Tigers, including senior Halli Bartelsmeyer. Bartelsmeyer led Republic with 15 points, 12 of them in the first half.
Delaney Smith scored six points on two three-pointers at key moments. Jade Kirby scored seven. She made a huge three-pointer to give Republic a 35-33 lead.
“We had a heck of a team effort,” Flood said. “We were fortunate enough to get some baskets. Jade hit a big three. It shot some life into us, and it just continued on the defensive end.”
Clara Fronabarger had five points, and also played standout defense, especially down the stretch. She forced a handful of Willard turnovers in the second half that helped Republic overcome a third-quarter deficit. One of them set up Jade Kirby’s three-pointer, which in turn set up her sister’s heroics.
The Lady Tigers, who’ve lost two close games to Kickapoo this season, will get a rematch with the Lady Chiefs in the state sectionals. Senior Halli Bartelsmeyer says she and her teammates want another shot.
“Those have both been close games. We’re ready to come back and play harder than ever. We’re not done yet,” she said.
Republic improves to 20-8. Willard ends its season at 16-12.
Halli Bartelsmeyer 15, Jade Kirby 7, Delaney Smith 6, Clara Fronabarger 5, Jazzy Kirby 4, Savana Powell-Goodman 2
Farr Better Player of the Game
Jazzy Kirby scored just four points, but they were the biggest four points of the season for the Lady Tigers. Kirby made four free throws in the final ten seconds and intercepted a pass on the defensive end to help seal the district title for Republic, and she’s our Farr Better Player of the Game.
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