The near capacity crowd at Logan-Rogersville High School watched an absolute nail-bitter on Friday night in the Class 4, District 11 title game.
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The West Plains Lady Zizzers knocked off the Republic Lady Tigers 59-58 in overtime as Hannah Riggs made a put back floater from nearly three feet away as the buzzer sounded.
“I kind of just threw it up there and it went in,” said Riggs. “I didn’t even think about it, I just caught it and shot it.”
Friday’s game was highly touted as a “must see” game around the area. Each team, very easily, could play in the state championship this season, even with Republic being the defending state champs from a year ago.
“That’s the thing, either team could lost tonight and be sitting at home tomorrow and still feel like they are one of the better teams in the state,” said West Plains coach Scott Womack. “There are still some pretty good teams out there and we are just part of the journey right now.”
“I’m speechless right now,” said Riggs. “I don’t know, this is all just great and I’m so excited.”
West Plains actually never saw a lead in the game until overtime, when Haney hit one of two free throws. Republic seemed to of had complete control of the game; leading by as much as 11 points in the 1st half. The Lady Tigers held a 10 point lead heading into the break, thanks in large part to senior Alice Heinzler hitting a 30-foot 3-point heave at the buzzer.
“We didn’t do a very good job on the offensive boards in the 1st half and we talked about that at half,” said Womack. “I knew if we rebound better in the 2nd half, we can get back in this game.”
West Plains finished the night by grabbing one more rebound than the Lady Tigers and forced 18 turnovers throughout the night with a variety of zone defense and full court pressure.
With 3:07 left in regulation, the score was tied 49-49 on Johnson’s 3-pointer from the wing. The score didn’t change until overtime with just over three minutes left.
“We just needed to be more solid on defense,” said Womack. “These girls are just fighters, they never quit and things worked out.”
Republic held the ball for the last shot at the end of regulation but with 34.5 left, they were called for a 5-second closely guarded violation. West Plains had the ball for the final shot but never got a good look. The ball ended up at half court as time expired when Haney tried saving the ball from going out of bounds.
“We are talking about high school kids here,” said Womack. “I wish we could have made more free throws but with the emotions of the game, they just did a great job.”
West Plains made more free throws than Republic attempted. West Plains finished 14-27 on the night from the charity stripe, and Republic only shot 10 on the night but made eight of them.
The Lady Zizzers were led by Haney, who scored a game high 25 points. She scored 15 out of the team’s 21 points in the 1st half. Shelby Acklin added 13 and Johnson chipped in 10 points.
"I’m just overwhelmed right now I guess,” said Haney. “Excited, anxious, but knowing this isn’t the final step.”
Republic was in foul trouble all night long. First, Alex Botkin, the main ball handler and floor general, picked up two quick fouls in the 1st quarter and her third midway through the 2nd quarter. Heinzler fouled out it the 4th quarter and senior Sarah Kruel fouled out with 34.8 to go in overtime.
“Obviously disappointed,” said Republic coach Kris Flood. “Shock, disbelief and its one of those things where we would rather get beat by 10 or 12 than the way we did.”
Republic was led by Heinzler, who finished her career with 22 points but sat out the final 2:12 of regulation and all of overtime. Fellow senior Kruel added 14 points, who also sat out with 34.8 to go in overtime.
The defending state champs finish the season with an impressive 25-2 record. The Lady Tigers will lose five seniors, who all started Friday night.
“This was just a great atmosphere and a great thing to just be a part of,” said Flood. “Especially in the situation that this was, it will be great to look back at this and say it was awesome to coach in a game like this.”
With the district title win under the name, West Plains improves to 27-1 on the season and will play the winner of Webb City and Carthage, who play on Saturday.
“We need to enjoy this for about a day and a half,” said Womack. “Then Sunday, be ready to come back in and focus and be ready to go for Wednesday.”