By Kai Raymer (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
For limiting Mansfield to only 11 first-half points, Republic coach Tim Brown credited an unlikely source.
His team’s lively bench.
“It’s a good thing we came to play defensively in the first half,” Brown said. “I thought we were really engaged and had a good game plan. (Playing defense) right in front of our bench, I thought it was easier for our guys to be engaged. Our bench did a great job of talking them through things.”
Playing on the other end in the second half, the Tigers needed every bit of their 15-point halftime lead to advance through to the 2018 Blue and Gold semifinals.
Third-seeded Republic withstood a second-half rally from six-seed Mansfield to prevail 37-36 in the nightcap of the Gold Division quarterfinals at JQH Arena on Thursday.
Republic (8-2 overall) faces Central Ozark Conference foe Ozark in the Gold Division semifinals at 8:30 p.m. Friday at JQH Arena. Top seed Catholic plays unseeded Camdenton at 7 p.m. in the other Gold semifinal.
“We battled through adversity,” Brown said. “We worked through a situation where you blow a 15-point lead, and we stepped up and made a play at the end. We executed well.”
With the game tied at 36, Republic senior Broc Smith drew a shooting foul with 4.8 seconds remaining. He missed the first attempt but made the second try, giving Republic a 37-36 lead.
Mansfield missed a potential game-winning shot from about 30 feet as time expired. The Lions outscored Republic 25-11 in the second half, keyed by a game-high 19 points from Dylan Caruso and four second-half 3-pointers from Payton Watterson.
“We were sagging off (Mansfield), and they stepped up and made some timely jump shots,” Brown said. “And I didn’t feel like we handled pressure well at that time. (Mansfield) got up in us and bothered us a little bit.”
Mansfield erupted after halftime with a 15-4 run that cut Republic’s lead to just four (30-26). Watterson’s fourth triple tied the game at 36-all with one minute remaining.
Republic only mustered 11 points in the second half. Smith scored 11 and Race Looney added 10 points to lead the Tigers.
Mansfield suffered its first loss of the season and drops to 10-1 overall. The Lions face Stockton in the 5th place bracket at 8:30 p.m. Friday at Hammons Student Center.
Republic 37, Mansfield 36
Republic 17 9 4 7 — 37
Mansfield 4 7 15 10 — 36
Republic – Broc Smith 11, Race Looney 10, Tucker Thomas 8, Drew McMillin 7, Trent Rackley 1
Mansfield – Dylan Caruso 19, Payton Watterson 12, Hesston Gray 4, Hunter Gray 1