By Denise Tucker
Republic, MO – The Republic Lady Tigers welcomed Carl Junction to the Central Ozark Conference on Monday night, but were not very gracious hosts as they handed the Lady Bulldogs their first loss of the season in a 43-31 victory.
Carl Junction, ranked No. 1 in Class 4 and No. 5 in the Ozarks Sports Zone Power Rankings, had been beating their opponents by an average of 30.3 points per game and had allowed only one team (Pittsburg, Kan.) to score more than 20. But the Lady Bulldogs showed the rust from a month-long layoff with too many missed shots and turnovers, and were unable to get anything going against Class 5 Republic.
“They just played really hard, and they played tough,” Carl Junction coach Brad Shorter said of Republic. “We made some silly errors and got in some big foul trouble, and missed 11 free throws. And if you told me we were going to get 20 turnovers from Republic, I feel like we’re going to be pretty good, but we had 24 ourselves.”
Class size aside, the victory was big for Republic, which improved to 8-6 overall and 1-0 in the COC Large.
“I feel like we’ve played a pretty tough schedule up to this point, and I thought it prepared us for the beginning of the conference,” Republic coach Kris Flood said. “Carl Junction, I thought, was probably going to be one of those teams that was definitely going to be in the upper half of the Large COC.
“So, to get off to the start we did and get a nice win at home, that will, hopefully, push us up and push us forward as far as that goes.”
Republic went on a 6-0 run to close out the first quarter for a 9-4 lead, and opened the second quarter with a 7-0 run for a 16-4 advantage, sparked by Megan Branstetter’s seven points.
The Lady Tigers’ game plan was to keep Carl Junction’s 6-foot-2 sisters Megan and Katie Scott in front of them and to make the Lady Bulldogs (8-1, 0-1) go over the top, and shoot from the outside.
They were able to hold Megan Scott (junior) to seven points and Katie (freshman) to just four points for the night.
“Overall, I thought we executed very well,” Flood said. “Holding them to 31 points… I was very pleased with that.”
In addition to pushing the Scotts away from the basket, Republic was also able to get them and their 2016 Big 8 Conference player of the year, Alex Vogt, in foul trouble. Vogt picked up her third foul with 6:34 left in the second quarter, and Katie Scott was whistled for her third with 1:08 remaining in the half.
“We got those kids in foul trouble early,” Shorter said of his players. “You get two all-state players in foul trouble early, it’s going to be tough. That’s 90 percent of our scoring. When those kids get in foul trouble, what are you going to do?
“They (Republic) did a good job defensively. They always do.”
But Carl Junction came out much more aggressive to start the second half, and sparked by Megan Scott’s four points, the Lady Bulldogs went on a 7-0 run of their own to pull within two points (22-20) of Republic.
Brylee Manes hit a 3-pointer to put Republic back up 25-20 and the two teams traded baskets with Carl Junction getting it within two (27-25) with 1:46 to go in the third quarter.
A 3-pointer from Allyson Barrett gave Republic a 30-25 lead heading into the final quarter and the Lady Tigers began to pull away.
“We had been struggling with some scoring, and when they made that run at us, it seemed like we’d hit a shot or two… it seemed like we were able to get an answer, which we hadn’t been doing,” Flood said. “Hopefully, that will build some confidence.”
Carl Junction closed the gap to 37-30 with 3:35 left in the game. After turning the ball over, the Lady Bulldogs began to trap and forced a Republic turnover.
Flood called timeout with 2:57 to go and challenged his senior guard, Taylor Fergen, to step up and take care of the ball.
Coming out of the time out, the senior proceeded to hit two pull-up jumpers in the lane and another basket on a coast-to-coast layup.
“I had a few turnovers there in the fourth quarter,” Fergen said. “I know that’s normally not like me, so I knew I just had to shake it off and not let it get to my head. I just had to pick my head up.
“At that timeout, I just had to calm down and just keep confident and come back out and keep us up.”
And the senior took care of business.
“It looked like they were trying to match up there toward the end, and she was able to take her man one-on-one and hit those three little pull-up jumpers,” Flood said. “We really needed it because we were starting to hemorrhage a little bit, and then she hit those shots and we got a couple of stops.”
Shorter wasn’t using the layoff as an excuse for his team’s play.
“We couldn’t get over the hump,” Shorter said. “That’s one thing we’ve got to keep working on is being able to get over that hump. Tip your hat to them. Kids hit some big shots, hit some deep shots. But, at the same time, we’ve got to get stops and keep working and keep pushing.
“We’ve just got to go back to work and focus on being strong,” Shorter said. “We need to come out and play better than we did tonight.”
REPUBLIC GIRLS 43, CARL JUNCTION 31
Central Ozark Conference-Large game
CARL JUNCTION (8-1) – 4-9-12-6—31
REPUBLIC (8-6) – 9-13-8-13—43
CARL JUNCTION – Emma Frack 9, Megan Scott 7, Alex Vogt 7, Katie Scott 4, Lauran Walker 4.
REPUBLIC – Taylor Fergen 15, Brylee Manes 12, Megan Branstetter 7, Allyson Barrett 5, Madison Beckham 4.
Republic B 60, Carl Junction B 25
Republic freshmen 53, Carl Junction freshmen 24