By Matt Turer — @MattTurer (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
HEAD COACH: Kris Flood
2016-17 RECORD (COC-L): 18-12 (6-2)
2016-17 POSTSEASON: SECTIONALS: Lost 60-42 to Branson
GRADUATES: Taylor Fergen (All-COC Large 1st Team – Unanimous), Allyson Barrett, Madison Beckham, Madison Appleberry, Natalie Bennett
RETURNING PLAYERS: Brylee Manes (Sr., 5’8”), Megan Branstetter (Sr., 5’5”), Halli Bartelsmeyer (Sr., 5’6”), Morgan McGuire (Sr., 5’7”), Avy Powell-Qualo (Jr.)
NEWCOMERS: Anna Bell (Jr.), Lacey Walcher (Jr.), Brittany Campbell (Jr.), Jade Kirby (So.)
Republic responded to losing a decorated 2015-16 senior class by finishing with 18 wins and a fourth consecutive district title last winter. The Tigers beat Nixa 62-44 in that district championship but were eliminated by Branson 60-42 in sectionals.
“It has been tough to win four in a row but our kids always seem to put themselves in situations where they have a good chance to win,” Tigers coach Kris Flood said of the recent district success.
The Tigers lost five seniors (four starters) to graduation but it’s Taylor Fergen’s name that stands out most. Fergen was a unanimous first team all-conference selection in 2016-17 and is now playing college ball at John Brown University in Arkansas.
Flood called last season a rebuilding year despite that district title. He hasn’t yet said the same about this year’s roster.
Republic brings back 27.7 points per game on the offensive end. Brylee Manes (12 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 1.6 APG, 39% FG, 85% FT) leads that group and is the only returning starter from last season. She’s Republic’s returning rebounder and is consistent at the line. “We look for her to expand her game this year,” Flood said of Manes.
Megan Branstetter (7 PPG, 2.6 RPG, 1.2 APG, 30% FG, 69% FT) was key off the bench and started a handful of games last season. She’s Republic’s No. 2 returning scorer. “She is a gutsy player that will be looked upon to handle the ball for us and to pick up some of the scoring responsibilities that we lost,” Flood said.
Halli Bartelsmeyer (3.1 PPG, 1.2 RPG, 1 APG, 33% FG, 63% FT) didn’t start but played significant minutes last season. Like Branstetter, she’s expected to take on expanded ball-handling and scoring responsibilities.
Morgan McGuire (1.0 PPG, 1.3 RPG, 0.3 APG, 30% FG, 25% FT) is a post/guard with a very high basketball IQ. Flood expects her to fill many different roles.
Avy Powell-Qualo (4.6 PPG, 3 RPG, 0.2 APG, 40% FG, 50% FT) is the only junior returner from last year’s varsity roster after playing in 12 varsity games last season. “She’ll help us in the middle and she’s also one of the better athletes we have on the team with her speed, ability to get off the floor and guard about any spot on the floor,” Flood said.
BUILDING BLOCKS FOR THE FUTURE
Averaging over 23 wins per season since 2010 has created high expectations for this program. Despite falling below that average last year, Republic’s 18 wins in a rebuilding year were a good sign that there’s good work being done cultivating young talent. This year’s team has four varsity newcomers that will be looked towards to help continue this program’s success, including a sophomore that Flood sounds particularly excited about.
Flood’s comments on his new varsity group:
Jade Kirby (So.): “Has tremendous upside and will see time at the varsity level this year. She is a guard that can run the point or play the shooting guard.”
Anna Bell (Jr.): “A hard-nosed junior that will be looked upon to help us in the middle where we are lacking some depth.”
Lacey Walcher (Jr.) and Brittany Campbell (Jr.): “Both junior guards that will be looked on to push for several minutes either off the bench and possibly in starting roles. They both can shoot the ball well and are both good defenders.”
ADDITION QUOTES FROM KRIS FLOOD
On Republic’s chances at a fifth consecutive district title: “Hard to say right now until we get a little deeper into the season. You never know when a key injury could occur or if a team gets hot at the right time.”
On his expectations for this year’s roster: “I look at this team as a group that will compete night in and night out and will usually be in every game. They are a hardworking group that plays well together.”