By Dana Harding (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Republic, Mo. — When your team’s tallest starter is only 5-foot-7, how do you deal with a 6-foot-2 post presence?
A red-hot night from the perimeter certainly never hurts.
Republic poured in 13 3-pointers Thursday night en route to a 59-45 victory over Carl Junction, last season’s Class 4 state runner-up.
While Lady Bulldog all-state selection Katie Scott notched a game-high 26 points, the junior forward got out to a slow start due to Republic’s constant run of zone double-teams.
Lady Tigers head coach Kris Flood talked about the difficulties trying to slow down a player of Scott’s caliber.
“We worked on a little bit of a zone just making sure when she was ever on the inside, we’re always going to try and have what we call a sandwich,” Flood said. “Just make sure we always have a full front and a back on her, and then make sure everyone else did their job, as far as rotating in the zone.”
Thanks to the Republic sandwich, Scott was held scoreless in the first quarter, as the Lady Tigers jumped out to an early 11-9 lead.
The tight zone limited Scott’s interior touches; however, she still was able to facilitate open looks for her teammates working primarily from the top of the key.
With Republic’s defensive focus elsewhere, junior Dani Wrensch was able roam free and scored 6 of her 9 points in the first quarter to pace the Lady Bulldogs.
“We got burned a little bit in the first half by the other kids, honestly, with them cutting on the outside and making cuts the middle when she caught the ball because Scott really a good passer,” Flood said. “I don’t think people sometimes realize that.”
It’s no secret the undersized Republic team favors its perimeter attack, and the Lady Tigers lived up to their billing in the second quarter.
Led by sophomore point guard Clara Fronabarger’s attack-and-kick offense, Republic consistently found itself with wide-open looks on the perimeter.
Senior Halli Bartelsmeyer, Fronabarger and junior Jade Kirby combined for a quartet of 3-pointers in the quarter and helped Republic open up a 27-17 lead at the half.
Fronabarger talked about having complete confidence in her teammates to convert baskets.
We get the ball moving a little bit, and there’s some gaps that I just see,” Fronabarger said. “I’ll just attack them, and [Carl Junction] will just collapse so I can just kick it out to Jade or to Halli. I know I have faith in them that they’ll finish.”
In the third, Republic’s bomb squad found another gear with six more 3-pointers.
Kirby, in particular, capitalized on Fronabarger’s penetration.
The 5-foot-6 guard connected on a trio of 3-balls in the quarter and quick to credit her teammate for creating uncontested shots.
“With Clara, it’s just knowing that she’ll get everyone to collapse on her,” Kirby said. “ I had that extra second to get my into my routine and my shot, which really helps.”
Kirby finished the night with a team-high 24 points and six 3-pointers.
Flood praised his team for continuing to look for the red-hot Kirby in the offense.
“[Kirby] was in a zone,” Flood said. “You get in one of those zones — and she’s feeling it. That last one she hit towards the end, I was thinking I might want to pull it out, and then she went and pulled the trigger and knocked it down. I’m like, okay … it’s one of those nights.”
Republic’s third-quarter barrage allowed it to open up a 20-point lead midway through the period.
“We couldn’t ask for a better third quarter,” Flood said. “I mean we came out and it seemed like we hit three or four right there and row and just kind of kept the momentum, and we were able to really build a good lead — and then fortunate enough to hang on.”
Fortunate, in this case, because the Lady Bulldogs managed to rally late in the quarter behind Scott, who scored all 14 of her team’s points in the period.
After switching to full-court pressure, Carl Junction boosted its run with bookended Scott baskets to close the third and open the fourth quarter.
Three minutes later, a Scott 3-pointer cut the Republic lead to seven at 47-40.
Unfortunately for the Lady Bulldogs, that’s as close as they would get the rest of the evening.
A trio of quick baskets from Fronabarger and senior Anna Bell helped stretch the lead back to 12 points with only a couple minutes left in the contest.
After the game, Flood praised his team’s patience to wait for, and then seize, open opportunities.
“We came out at the beginning of the game and looked a little tentative as far as wanting to attack the zone,” Flood said. “I thought as the game progressed, we became a little more aggressive on penetrations. We were getting in the in the right angles, and we were hitting the right people — the ones that had those open looks — and they knocked him down.”
Fronabarger and Bartelsmeyer joined Kirby in double figures with 15 and 14 points, respectively.
For Carl Junction head coach Brad Shorter, Republic’s perimeter success and the late-game deficit proved too much to overcome.
“Very rarely are we going to run into teams that shoot that well,” Shorter said. “For us, I think we just ran out of gas. It was tough there for us, playing defense that we’re not accustomed to. That’s not particularly our game, but we were kind of forced to press a little bit. We showed some signs of being able to do that, but i think was a little too late.”
Varsity Final: Republic – 59, Carl Junction – 45
Carl Junction 08 09 14 14 — 45
Republic 11 16 19 13 — 59
Carl Junction scoring: Katie Scott – 26, Dani Wrensch – 9, Jessa Hylton – 4, Ashley Stokes – 4, Taylor Hughes – 2
Republic scoring: Jade Kirby – 24, Clara Fronabarger – 15, Halli Bartelsmeyer – 14, Jazzy Kirby – 2, Savana Powell-Goodman – 2, Anna Bell – 2