The Republic Lady Tigers have been playing some of their best basketball all year, especially on the defensive end. And with districts starting on Monday night, they may be peaking at the right time.
Republic played twice this past week against two good opponents, hosting Hollister on Thursday and traveling to Ozark on Monday.
The Ozark game was big too, with the winner guaranteeing themselves at least a tie with Willard for the COC title. The Lady Tigers never trailed, scoring first and riding that momentum throughout the entirety of the game. They had many different contributors on offense, Savana Powell-Goodman and Kaemyn Bekemeier each had 15 and freshman Rilynn Finley led the way with 16 points. Finley just recently found herself in the starting lineup and has been putting in some quality minutes for the Lady Tigers, making plays on both ends of the floor.
But it was the defense that really stepped up in the conference clincher, especially late in the game. Up 50-47 in the last minute left, the Lady Tigers stopped Ozark on three consecutive possessions to hold on for the win and a tie for first in the conference.
“It’s a great accomplishment considering the conference, especially the top half, was pretty balanced this year, and every night, especially here at the end, has really been a battle,” Head coach Kris Flood said. “I’m proud of the way the kids played.”
The Lady Tigers played Hollister Thursday to get one last game in before districts. Hollister senior Kendrick “Bug” Bailey put on a show in the first half, scoring 15 of Hollister’s 26 points and holding the Republic lead to just 1 point at the half.
Kris Flood made the decision to make Hollister beat them in another way, to get the ball out of Bug Bailey’s hands as much as possible.
“We talked at halftime as a staff and made an adjustment, just trying to get the ball out of her hands as much as we could, and maybe make those other ones (beat us),” said coach Kris Flood. “And they only had 11 points in the second half, so that’s a pretty good half of defense for us.”
Republic double-teamed Bailey throughout the second half, held Hollister to 11 second-half points, and went on to win 65-37. With two big wins this week, Flood thinks it could be a sign of good things to come for the Lady Tigers.
“The last couple of games, we’ve been a little bit better defensively. It seems like we’re starting to click with that part, and maybe that’s a good sign it’s coming together at the right time.”
Republic is going to need the momentum for the district tournament this week. The Lady Tigers play Carthage Monday night and could play Kickapoo for the championship if both win in the first round. Kickapoo dominated Republic early this season, but, with the recent successes, things might turn out differently this time around if that’s how things turn out.
The future of Lady Tigers’ basketball is bright no matter how things go this week. The young varsity core of Rilynn Finley and sophomore Kaemyn Bekemeier, who keeps improving every time they step onto the court is promising enough, but more young talent might be on the way for the varsity team. The JV Lady Tigers finished off a perfect 23-0 season Thursday night in a blowout win over Hollister, and the Freshman Lady Tigers ended their season Monday night in Ozark to finish their season at 18-0.