By Matt Turer / Matt Turer (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
REPUBLIC, Mo. – Ten minutes after the calmest person inside Republic High School drove the lane, got fouled and hit the first two of four consecutive free throws in the game’s final 11 seconds, her hands were shaking.
Perhaps for the first time all night.
Jazlyn Kirby, who goes by Jazzy, smoothly sunk the go-ahead free throw with 10.5 seconds left, Halli Bartelsmeyer scored a game-high 15 points and the 1-seed Republic Tigers punched a ticket to the Class 5 sectionals with a 39-35 Class 5 District 12 championship win the Willard Tigers on Friday.
“This feels amazing,” Jazzy Kirby said. “We’ve had our eyes set on this for so long. And we’re district champs. That’s all we wanted.”
Republic (20-8) held 2-seed Willard (16-12) to just four points in the fourth quarter, yet Willard’s Tigers still led 33-32 with 3:59 to play. Nearly two minutes later, Kylie Kirby hit a go-ahead three that put Republic up 35-33. But 10 seconds later, Kaitlyn Burson pulled Willard back even with 2:05 left.
The Tigers responded by playing out a 1:54 possession that ended with Jazzy Kirby driving and drawing the foul that would end in the game-winning free throws. Kirby would hit two more free throws after a late foul. She previously had no points in the game.
“It was loud, but I just kept telling myself I could make it, over and over again,” Jazzy Kirby said. “I had to make sure it would go in.”
The win gave Republic its first district title since defeating Nixa in 2017. That team went on to fall to Branson in sectionals. Republic’s Tigers haven’t advanced past sectionals since beating Kickapoo in 2015.
Burson led Willard with 15 points. Willard’s Tigers trailed 20-18 at halftime but led heading into the fourth thanks to a 13-10 advantage in the third quarter.
“I’m proud of our young ladies,” Willard head coach J.J. Adamson said. “We came in with these seniors four years ago, and it’s a shame to see them go. A defeat like this is tough, but they are exemplary young ladies and I’m very proud of them and what they’ve accomplished over the past four years.”
It was the final game for six Willard Tigers seniors, including Hannah Bird, Nona Adamson, Jordan Lindsey, Elizabeth Drennan, Krystalynn Melton and Josie Sanders. The six combined for 14 of Willard’s 35 points.
Republic will travel to Kickapoo (22-6) on March 6 for sectionals.
WHS |10|8|13|4| — |35|
RHS |11|9|10|9| — |39|
Willard- Kaitlyn Burson 15, Josie Sanders 5, Hannah Bird 4, Megan Mahan 3, Nona Adamson 3, Addalyn Adamson 3, Elizabeth Drennan 2
Republic- Halli Bartelsmeyer 15, Kylie Kirby 7, Delaney Smith 6, Clara Fronabarger 5, Jazlyn Kirby 4, Savana Powell-Goodman 2