A celebratory Cadence Lugar leaps onto Adison Gibbs after Gibbs scored the overtime game-winner. (Photo by David Brazeal)

Republic Rides Roller Coaster to 4-3 Overtime Win

It was a game that had a little bit of everything – lead changes, clutch saves, and overtime heroics. When the dust settled, Republic was still standing, beating Ozark 4-3 in an overtime instant classic to keep their season going and move on to the district semifinals.

Less than a week after Republic edged Ozark 1-0 on the road, the two rivals met again with their seasons on the line in the district quarterfinals. Molly Blades drew first blood for Republic, slipping a shot past Ozark goalkeeper Laykin Hoskins with 18:30 left in the first half. But Ozark’s Annabelle Kruse had an answer, catching Republic keeper Awbree Berning off her line and tying the score with 7:33 to go before halftime.

Ozark carried that momentum into the second half, with Addison Shuler giving them a 2-1 lead on a sharp-angle goal that landed in the side of the net. Ozark nearly added to the lead a few minutes later, hitting the crossbar, but Berning kept Republic close with a great leaping save on the rebound header.

Kendra Phiri provided the equalizer Republic needed, scoring from 30 yards out off the fingertips of Hoskins with 18:39 remaining. Blades then set up Adison Gibbs to put Republic back in front 3-2 at the 15:02 mark.

But Ozark wasn’t done. They knotted the score 3-3 on a left corner kick to the back post with 10:41 to play, ultimately sending the game to overtime.

Once overtime started, it didn’t take long for Blades and Gibbs to connect again, with Blades assisting Gibbs for the golden goal just 1:51 into the extra session, sending Republic into a frenzied celebration.

“I don’t think we ever had a mentality that we were going to lose,” Blades said. “The nerves were there for me, especially because I’m working up there to try and score. I feel like it’s my job to put the ball in the back of the net for my team.”

Berning praised her back line and their resilience after Republic lost the lead twice. “I definitely trust my back line every time,” she said. “If there’s a mistake, (Kendra Phiri) is always encouraging after we get scored on. I’m just trying to get them out of the goal as fast as I can.”

Brooklyn Claxton, who played the ball ahead on the winner, said she practically blacked out during the decisive play. “I don’t even remember what happened, I just started crying after,” Claxton said. “I was down there at the end, I had space, and then I looked up and saw Molly and Gibbs, and I was like ‘I’m just going to send it over because it’s been working most of the game.’ It went in, and I started bawling my eyes out and running at them. It was so exciting.”

Phiri credited the team’s composure and senior leadership for the comeback win. “As our back line, we’ve worked a lot on staying together, staying connected, and Awbree does a great job talking to us each game,” she said. “Our defense, we obviously help our team stay in it, but without our our offense scoring, we don’t win games.”

The win was extra special for Republic’s nine seniors, who were determined to extend their careers. “This game was very special for us because we didn’t want it to be our last,” Ava Brown said. “We just went into overtime doing everything we could to win and shutting it down defensively.”

The Lady Tigers improve to 17-6. This is only the third time in program history Republic has won 17 games in a season. The Lady Tigers are one win shy of matching the program record of 18 wins in a season, set in 2013.

With the dramatic victory, Republic advances to the district semifinals against top-seeded Nixa. They’ll look to avenge a regular-season loss and take another step toward a district championship Wednesday night in Republic.


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