Two of the top girls basketball programs in Missouri clashed in the state quarterfinals at Bolivar Saturday, with Columbia Rock Bridge edging Republic 59-55 in overtime. Rock Bridge outscored Republic 15-11 in the extra period to avenge last year’s 43-40 quarterfinal loss to Republic on the same floor.
Saturday, it seemed Rock Bridge might run away with the game early. After Republic scored the first bucket, Rock Bridge reeled off nine straight points to take a 9-2 lead. Republic got good shots, but wasn’t able to connect early in the game. A Savana Powell-Goodman three-pointer with about :30 left in the period made the score 9-5 and gave Republic some life. Rock Bridge led 10-5 after one.
In the second quarter, Republic started connecting on its shots, and its defense began to cause trouble for Rock Bridge. The Lady Tigers outscored Rock Bridge 16-9, and a three-pointer by Kaitlyn Ragsdale just ahead of the halftime buzzer gave Republic its first lead of the night at 21-19.
“We fell behind like we’ve done. We fell behind a few times here in this stretch and battled back. That shot by Kaitlyn there at halftime was a shot in the arm and kind of gave us a little momentum,” Flood said. “We just never could get where we could get comfortable. Every time we were in a spot to maybe get it to two possessions or something like that, they’d hit a shot.’
In the third quarter, Republic took control for the first time, leading by as many as six points twice. The Lady Tigers had a six point lead and the ball at one point, but Rock Bridge got a stop and never let Republic stretch the lead to three possessions.
The score was 33-32 Republic at the end of the third quarter, and the Lady Tigers held onto the lead for much of the fourth quarter. When Kaemyn Bekemeier made two free throws with 1:02 remaining, Republic led 44-41.
But after a time out, Rock Bridge senior Eryn Puett got loose at the arc and made a three-pointer to tie the game 44-44 with :40 remaining. She finished with 19 points to lead Rock Bridge, and nine of those were in the fourth quarter, with five more coming in overtime.
On the Lady Tigers’ final possession of regulation, Jade Kirby tried to feed Bekemeier with a pass in the lane, but Rock Bridge’s Sanaa’ St. Andre knocked the pass away and time expired before Republic could get a shot.
Bekemeier scored the first bucket of overtime in transition to give Republic a 46-44 lead, but Avery Kroenke’s two three-pointers helped Rock Bridge get the lead, and Republic never led again.
“We jumped out in overtime and got the first basket, but again, they came back and hit a big shot,” Flood said.
Republic wraps up its season with a 20-10 record. They reached 20 wins despite losing Clara Fronabarger and Shealyn Barrett to injury around the same time in January. This season mirrored last year, when the Lady Tigers responded to Avylina Powell-Qualo’s injury by making a deep playoff run.
“We would love to have two more games, but looking back, this group has overcome a lot of things this year – injuries, and usually having a smaller group. They always fought through. They always persevered. I’ve said that so many times here in the last month – they fight through things,” Flood said.
It was the last game as Lady Tigers for five seniors: Shealyn Barrett, Jade Kirby, Delaney Smith, Carle Ward, and Whitney Weaver.
“These seniors, they’re going to be fine,” Flood said. “I told them it’s going to hurt a little bit, but they’re such a great group of kids. They’re great academically. They’ve got a lot to look forward to as they move on.”
The teams played in front of a nearly empty arena because of restrictions imposed by MSHSAA to try to minimize the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus. Only sixty people from each school were allowed into the building – included players, coaches, and administrators. But once the game got started, Flood said he didn’t really notice.
“We talked about it, and I said, ‘Girls, once the ball is tipped, it’s going to be like any other game.’ I didn’t feel it, and I don’t think the kids really ever noticed it or paid attention to it,” he said. “I’m just glad we got the chance to play it. They could very well have just totally called it off, and we would have been done after Wednesday. We really had an opportunity to win the game and just couldn’t get over that hump.”
Republic scoring: Kaemyn Bekemeier 23, Savana Powell-Goodman 13, Jade Kirby 9, Jazzy Kirby 7, Kaitlyn Ragsdale 3