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“We knew coming into it that that was the way it was going to be,” said Republic head coach Trevyor Fisher of the hard fought, low scoring contest. “We challenged our guys yesterday at practice. We didn’t come out with great intensity at practice and, therefore, it carried over to today’s game. Fortunately enough, we were able to steady ourselves there in the second half. We’ve talked about it all year…as long as we play defense, we’re going to have a chance to win even when shots aren’t going in on the offensive end.”
The Liberators jumped out to a 7-0 lead midway through the first quarter. In fact, Republic did not score its first point until a Cody Geiger basket with 3:07 remaining in the period. After another Geiger basket, a three-pointer by the Tigers’ Canyon Smith tied it 7-7 with 1:19 left. Republic actually extended it to a 9-0 run before Bolivar tied the game up 9-9 at the end of the first period.
“We got decent shots early, we just missed them,” said Fisher. “It’s just a matter of keep doing what we’re doing and actually getting the ball to go through the hole. Once we got that first one to go through, we kind of settled down a little bit and we got some buckets in transition in the second half which always helps. It was a struggle, but we’ll take it.”
The third quarter belonged to the state-ranked Tigers, as Republic outscored Bolivar 20-10 in the period. Geiger led the onslaught, as the junior forward pounded the paint and tallied 12 points in the quarter, en route to a team high 20 points for the game. The Tigers pushed the lead to double figures at the buzzer off a nifty wrap around pass from senior guard Jake Fletcher to Grant Hancock for an uncontested lay-in.
“Obviously, there’s not a lot of shot attempts and there’s a low possession game and that’s something that we wanted to do against a team like that,” said Bolivar head coach Robbie Hoegh. “But at the same time, if you don’t hit those shots, now every possession becomes more and more pressure-filled. When you’re only getting 30 shots, one miss is critical. At the wrong time, it can be a big momentum swing in the opposite direction. That’s kind of what happened in the third quarter.”
The Liberators had several open looks—many from close range—that did not go down. Bolivar also launched several open shots from beyond the arc, but hit only one three-pointer for the game. Only four Liberators scored in the game, led by junior Chance Rash’s 15 points and senior post player Evan Roberts’ 10 points.
“Obviously they’ve got so many explosive players that they can go on a run like they did in the third quarter, so we were just wanting to grind it,” said Hoegh. “Unfortunately, we had a few close-in shots—and that’s their length that bothers you—that didn’t quite go in. In the third quarter, we had a couple lay-ups that could’ve helped sustain, I guess, and keep the water from breaking the dam, so to speak.”
The Tiger lead swelled to as many as 14 points several times in the fourth quarter, the last time coming after Fletcher’s pull-up jumper from the left block at the 2:12 mark of the fourth quarter provided the final margin at 45-31.
“I think we tried to establish a post presence down low, and we kind of got them in a little bit of foul trouble,” said Fisher of the key to the Tigers’ third quarter onslaught. “And then we beat their big guys down the floor in transition a couple of times and then got some points off of steals, so just it was kind of a mixture of all that stuff.”
“We were just trying to figure out ways to score,” said Hoegh of the Liberators’ plans coming out of the locker room after halftime. “Their length is a problem. We struggled to penetrate the basketball and beat people, besides Rash really. When you can’t get the ball to the paint, it makes it difficult to do anything.”
Republic will open Central Ozark Conference Large Division play by playing host to Carthage Tuesday night, while Bolivar opens COC Small Division action on Tuesday by traveling to Marshfield.