Twice this season, Kaemyn Bekemeier has fouled out. And both times, Republic has held or extended its lead to close out a win after Bekemeier went to the bench.
In Saturday’s district semifinal, just about everyone in a Republic uniform stepped up at one moment or another, helping the Lady Tigers advance to the district championship game with a 52-41 win over Ozark at Nixa. With leading scorer Bekemeier on the bench for long stretches of both halves, Republic needed help from everyone — and got it.
“That’s seriously a really good team effort,” said coach Kris Flood. “Bek got those early fouls and we had some people really step up.”
Just like the first time Republic and Ozark met, the first half was a physical battle with neither team gaining much advantage. Ozark took its first lead at 9-8 with 1:24 left in the first quarter, and there were six lead changes before halftime. Republic led 30-28 at the midway point.
But Republic emerged from the locker room with a little extra pep, and it paid off in a strong third quarter. Republic held Ozark to just six points over eight minutes and led 31-24 as the fourth quarter began.
“We hung in there and had that lead there at half, and then kind of built on it and won that third quarter,” Flood said. “And thank goodness we built a pretty good lead and were able to hang on there, especially when it got really physical. We hit just enough free throws to move on.”
A 7-0 run to start the fourth quarter put Republic ahead 38-24, and it seemed the Lady Tigers were about to run away with it. But Ozark had success with its full-court pressure, forced several Republic turnovers, and took advantage of Republic fouls to score its points at the foul line — while the clock was not running. It allowed Ozark to cut a 16-point lead, at 43-27, down to single digits.
When Bekemeier fouled out and Ozark’s Molly Rushing made two free throws, Republic led by nine points, 47-38. Another Ozark free throw cut it to 47-39. But just like the first meeting between Republic and Ozark, Republic owned the final minutes. Republic outscored Ozark 5-2 over the last 1:15 to pull away and win by 11.
Molly Blades continued her offensive surge, scoring 13 points and fueling the defense along with Misora Nambara. Nambara had eight points and handled the ball against Ozark’s trapping full-court defense during the final minutes. Alaina Norman scored six during Republic’s strong third quarter, finishing with nine. And Moly Mason made a couple of big plays in the fourth quarter, scoring all four of her points to fend off Ozark’s final surge, while Alex Price and Gracie Woods each played key roles by taking minutes normally reserved for Bekemeier. Lauren Chastain, battling illness, continued to contribute, finishing with five points. “Lauren’s still a little bit under the weather, but she came and might have played a little more than we anticipated. Lauren does a really good job,” Flood said.
The Lady Tigers improve to 25-3. Ozark ends its season at 15-12.
Republic advances to the district championship game against Kickapoo. The Lady Chiefs beat Nixa 60-56 in their semifinal to reach the championship game. Republic beat Kickapoo 55-48 earlier this season in the Pink & White Lady Classic.
Score by Quarters
Ozark 11 7 6 17 – 41
Republic 8 12 10 22 – 52
Kaemyn Bekemeier 14, Molly Blades 13, Misora Nambara 8, Alaina Norman 9, Lauren Chastain 5, Molly Mason 4