Republic succeeded all year by doing the little things that help teams win close games. Wednesday, the little things didn’t break their way in a season-ending 45-39 loss to Kickapoo in the state sectionals. The Chiefs scored the final five points of the game after Republic missed an opportunity to take the lead in the final minute, pulling away to advance to the state quarterfinals against Columbia Rock Bridge.
“We felt like the pace and the flow of the game was kind of to our advantage. The plays that we (usually) found ways to make and win games, we just couldn’t get over the hump,” said coach Tim Brown. “I told our guys, it’s no one’s fault. We should probably feel blessed that we were able to win as many close ones as we did.”
As good as Republic’s defense was, holding Kickapoo to 45 points, Kickapoo’s defense was even better. The Tigers scored only 35, and Republic’s two leading scorers, Broc Smith and Drew McMillin, managed only 15 points between them.
Republic struggled from the free throw line most of the night, and missed two front ends of one-and-ones in the second half. The Tigers also turned the ball over at uncharacteristic moments––moments where they had made big plays in close games most of the season.
The score was almost even most of the way, but Kickapoo grabbed its biggest lead of the night at 34-29 heading into the fourth quarter. They made the first bucket of the fourth period to stretch the lead to seven before Republic responded, eventually cutting the lead to one, but never managing to take the lead back again.
“I’m really proud of our guys. To be the first group to win a Class 5 district title and to run the table in the COC, and to beat two teams again that we’ve already beaten––our team’s got a lot to be proud of,” Brown said. “Our seniors left our program in a really good place and continued to raise the bar for it, and I’m just really proud of all of them.”
It was the final game in a Republic uniform for seniors Broc Smith, Trent Rackley, Jaden Duvall, and Cole Buxton. The loss also marked an end to Brown’s first season at Republic. He said he’ll remember this year for “all the moments, all the great environments we were able to play in, and seeing our kids find a way to win the games that we won. We gritted it all out. Those moments of happiness as a coach––it makes you proud to see your kids do those things.
“These guys mean a lot to me. I’m just thankful that they embraced me with open arms. I know it was probably difficult for a lot of them to have a new coach, especially the seniors. They have a lot that they should be proud of,” he said.
Tucker Thomas was the only Tiger in double figures with ten points.
Republic ends its season with a 22-7 record. The Tigers had won nine straight before Wednesday.
Tucker Thomas 10, Broc Smith 9, Drew McMillin 6, Race Looney 5, Trent Rackley 5, Joe Rexroat 2, Jaden Duvall 2