By Kai Raymer (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Out-sized, but never out-fought.
The Republic Lady Tigers used a hot-shooting third quarter and relentless defense to knock off a big, physical Kickapoo squad 55-46 in a Class 5 sectional Wednesday night at Drury’s O’Reilly Family Event Center.
Since a blowout loss to juggernaut Strafford in late January, the Lady Tigers are 11-1. Included in that run is an undefeated conference championship and their fifth district title in six seasons.
Republic’s been without one of its best players, senior Avy Powell-Goodman, since she suffered a season-ending knee injury in December.
“I don’t know if I’d say (we’re) overachieving, it’s just that we get the max out of our kids,” said Republic coach Kris Flood. “They’ve bought in to everything. They play hard. That’s the one thing we do consistently: play hard.”
Republic, whose tallest rotational player is listed at 5’7”, outscored Kickapoo 13-6 in a decisive third quarter.
The Lady Tigers held their own against a Kickapoo team which has eight rotational players listed at 5’8” or taller, including four 6-footers.
“They’re huge, like so big. And we’re not,” said Republic senior Halli Bartelsmeyer said. “Going into the game, we knew they’re tall and that was going to be our biggest struggle – blocking out. But we did that and we came out with a win.”
Republic faces Rock Bridge at 2:45 p.m. this Saturday at Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar. The Lady Bruins (18-9 overall) defeated Lebanon 54-46 on Wednesday night.
Bartelsmeyer finished with a game-high 20 points. She was part of Republic’s 11-0 run to close the third quarter that saw the Lady Tigers make 3-pointers on three straight possessions.
A 30-28 deficit became a 39-30 lead. Seven players scored in the win for Republic (21-8 overall).
“It doesn’t matter if you play for two minutes or the entire game,” Bartelsmeyer said. “When every player’s in there, they give everything they got. The little things make the game. It’s all of us. It’s a team.”
Bartlesmeyer is one just three Republic seniors.
“I really wanted this tonight,” Bartelsmeyer said. “It being my last year, I wanted another win.”
Republic held off Kickapoo’s fourth-quarter rally with free throws from Clara Fronabarger down the stretch. She finished with 12 points.
Kickapoo jumped out to a 17-9 lead in the first quarter. Republic, sparked by its defense, battled back and led by two at halftime.
“We’re a fast team and use that to our advantage,” Bartelsmeyer said. “They’re tall, but not as quick as us. We tried to press (Kickapoo), we came out pressing. That was our focus – to be all over the ball.”
Flood noted the importance of the third quarter.
In two previous meetings with Kickapoo this season – both Republic losses – the Lady Tigers struggled coming out of halftime.
“Kids hung in there after the first quarter. Didn’t put their heads down,” Flood said. “And we won the third quarter. The third quarter made the difference tonight.”
Republic 55, Kickapoo 46
Republic 9 17 13 16 – 55
Kickapoo 17 7 6 16 – 46
Republic (21-8 overall) – Halli Bartelsmeyer 20, Clara Fronabarger 12, Delaney Smith 7, Jazzy Kirby 6, Jade Kirby 4, Anna Bell 4, Shealyn Barrett 2
Kickapoo (22-7 overall) – Indya Green 12, Chloe Merced 11, Bella Fontleroy 5, Leah Fredrick 5, Rachel Senn 4, Madie Barrett 4, Macie Conway 3, Kaylee Corbin 2