By Dana Harding (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Springfield, Mo. — How to avoid a trap game in the Blue & Gold?
Getting out to a fast start always helps.
No. 4 Republic opened its matchup with No. 5 Fair Grove with 12 unanswered points en route to a 58-33 victory Friday night in the Gold Division quarterfinal round.
Tigers head coach Tim Brown was pleased with his team’s consistent play throughout the game.
“Our guys came ready to play,” Brown said. “Give them credit — they were ready for this one, and they executed the game plan to a tee. It was nice for us to kind of get our swagger back a little and see us do Republic things.”
Republic things, in this case, happen to include Drew McMillan pouring in a game-high 25 points, including seven 3-pointers.
The 5-foot-10 junior, who only missed twice from outside the 3-point line, was quick to credit his teammates for opening up opportunities.
“Our offense kind of runs a lot of screens for me,” McMillan said. “We run this play called 5-game Drew where everyone kind of screens for me to get me open — that’s how I got my open looks — and I just shot the ball when I was open.”
With Republic’s offense running a host of plays through and for a single player, Brown praised his team for its unselfish nature.
“Our guys do an awesome job of getting Drew open and finding Drew,” Brown said. “We try to play through him and around him, and our guys to a really good job of screening. I think they take joy in knowing that even though we had one guy that scored all those points, it took five guys to help him execute those shots. I think it’s fun for them because they’re not just standing in the corner.
As impressive as McMillan’s offensive outburst was, Republic’s defense on a long, athletic Eagles squad might have been the true star of the evening.
Fair Grove playmakers Cole Gilpin and David Oplotnik were held to a combined 15 points, which Brown believed to be a key factor in the victory.
“Obviously, we wanted to take Cole Gilpin and David Oplotnik out and make the game hard on them,” Brown said. “We wanted to make them work for every basket that they had, and our guys executed that really well tonight.”
Oplotnik finished with 9 points to lead the Eagles.
Republic (5-2) now moves on to Saturday’s Gold Division semifinal against No. 1 Kickapoo, while Fair Grove (7-2) heads to the fifth-place bracket to face Skyline.
Gold Division Quarterfinal: Republic – 58, Fair Grove – 33
Republic 23 08 14 13 — 58
Fair Grove 10 10 07 06 — 33
Republic scoring: Drew McMillin – 25, Race Looney – 8, Joe Rexroat – 8, Tucker Thomas – 6, Will Berry – 3, Carson Neff – 3, Ahlante Askew – 3, Oliver Welch – 2
Fair Grove scoring: David Oplotnik – 9, Cole Gilpin – 6, Darin Oplotnik – 6, Ambrose Broyles – 5, Ryan Berry – 5, Dominik Hoskins – 2,