By John Miller (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Springfield, Mo. – He hadn’t scored any points on the night, but with the game on the line, Parker Ramsdell was the man that Ozark coach Mark Schweitzer wanted with the ball.
The senior took the ball down the right side of the paint, stopped about 10 feet out, and sunk the go-ahead basket with one second remaining, lifting two-seed Ozark past three-seed Republic 48-46 in a Gold Division semifinal at JQH Arena on Friday night.
The shot by Ramsdell… pic.twitter.com/M6Q6YyYJAK
— John Miller (@John_TheVoice) December 29, 2018
“We did want the ball in his hands because he tends to be the deliverer of most of our points,” Schweitzer said.
Kristian Cooper and AJ Elliott each scored 10 points to lead Ozark. Republic got 12 points from Broc Smith and 11 from Trent Rackley.
Prior to Ramsdell’s heroics, Ozark took a timeout. The play they designed was to get Ramsdell the ball so he could read the defense and facilitate. But when Republic defended Ozark’s primary options, Ramsdell was forced to take matters into his own hands.
“Republic was there defensively,” Ramsdell said. “Time is running down and you don’t want the ball in your hands when the buzzer sounds … so I threw one up there and it went in. I guess somebody wanted us in the Blue & Gold championship.”
Ozark trailed most of the night, including a 42-34 deficit with six minutes remaining. They scrapped their way back in the game, holding Republic to one made basket and six total points in the fourth quarter.
“Our three senior guards led the charge,” Schweitzer said. “Not so much in terms of buckets, but in terms of morale. They stepped up huge in leadership, not in terms of what they said, but with their actions and defense.”
Free throws were also big down the stretch. Ozark made 9-of-11 in the fourth quarter. Republic went just 4-for-7, including missing the front-end of a 1-and-1.
“That’s been one of our weaknesses all season,” Schweitzer said. “Credit to our kids. They stepped up.”
Republic led 44-38 with 4:30 to play after Drew McMillan’s layup went through, but the Tigers didn’t make another field goal. Caleb Holzer sunk two free throws with 2:34 left that closed the deficit to 45-44, and Cooper finished a wide open layup off a back-cut that gave Ozark a brief 46-45 lead with 1:44 remaining.
On the next possession, Republic’s Race Looney was fouled on a drive, but made only one of two free throws, tying the game at 46. Ozark got the ball back with 1:26 to go and held for the final shot.
“I’m no (Daniel) Abreu or any of those guys,” Ramsdell said, referencing the Willard junior who has scored 96 points through three games in the tournament. “I’m not the guy that puts the points up there, but when the lights come on, you gotta put the ball in.
“That might be my only two points of the tournament, who knows, but I’ll take it.”
Ozark will face Catholic in the Gold Division championship at 8:30 p.m. on Saturday at JQH Arena. Republic will battle for third place with Camdenton at 5:30 p.m.
Ozark 48, Republic 46
Ozark 11 11 9 17 48
Republic 10 17 13 6 46
Ozark: Elliott 10, Cooper 10, Holzer 9, Riwa 6, Drake 6, Davidson 5, Ramsdell 2
Republic: Smith 12, Rackley 11, McMillin 9, Thomas 9, Looney 5