The lead changed hands 11 times in the second half during a battle of girls basketball powerhouses in Republic Thursday night. And the last time it happened, the Lady Tigers stepped up to make sure it didn’t happen again.
Republic used a 9-0 run in the fourth quarter to get some separation from Springfield Kickapoo, then held on for a 55-51 win. Freshman Kaemyn Bekemeier scored 16 points to lead Republic, Jazzy Kirby had 12, and Jade Kirby made a huge backcourt steal and layup to help seal the win for the Lady Tigers.
In the first half, Republic’s full-court pressure against the much larger Lady Chiefs paid big dividends. When the Lady Tigers didn’t get a steal, they often rushed Kickapoo into making a mistake in the frontcourt. At the end of the first quarter, Republic led 12-9. It was s 25-23 lead for Republic at halftime.
“We talked about it yesterday in practice – getting a little more pressure, especially from our top two on the box [press],” said coach Kris Flood. “I thought we came out at the beginning and executed and got a few turnovers. In the second half, we just kind of spotted [the press] here and there and really got some critical turnovers out of it.”
There were eight lead changes in the third quarter alone. Neither team led by more than three points for the entire period. Kickapoo had grabbed a one-point lead going into the final eight minutes, 39-38. Forward Indya Green fueled the Kickapoo offense throughout the third, scoring eight of her game-high 18 points during the period.
Early in the fourth quarter, Kickapoo grabbed a 44-41 lead, but that would be the high-water mark for the Lady Chiefs. Republic cracked down on defense and held the Kickapoo scoreless over the next four minutes.
Republic scored nine straight points, starting with a three-pointer by Clara Fronabarger to tie the game. After a time out, Fronabarger knocked away Kickapoo’s in-bounds pass, Savana Powell-Goodman picked up the loose ball and fired it back to Fronabarger for a layup. That gave Republic the lead for good.
The Lady Tigers made two more free throws to go up by four points, then Jade Kirby stepped up with a steal and a layup to make the score 50-44 and put Republic firmly in control.
“I’m just really happy with the way we played,” said Flood. “We didn’t have one of those lulls where we tried to do too much. You saw it a couple of times, but we regrouped and gathered ourselves and fought through it. We had some good possessions there at the end. We really had some kids step up in key spots.”
Republic improves to 6-4 with the win. Kickapoo falls to 7-5.
Republic scoring: Kaemyn Bekemeier 16, Jazzy Kirby 12, Savana Powell-Goodman 10, Jade Kirby 9, Clara Fronabarger 6, Shealyn Barrett 2