Republic’s team identity might be that the Tigers don’t have one.
Whether it’s going inside to their post players, or letting their guards direct the offense, the Tigers have shown they can play – and win – in a variety of ways.
On Saturday afternoon in the Class 4 title game, it was a mix of the all-around brilliance of Cody Geiger and quality ball-handling from the backcourt as the Tigers won their first state championship in 50 seasons and second overall.
Geiger led all players with 20 points and 10 rebounds as Republic defeated Normandy 54-51.
“We don’t really have one guy or one part of our game that we rely on,” said first-year Republic coach Trevyor Fisher. “We’ve had different guys almost each night step up for us.”
In typical Republic fashion, the Tigers wrestled with Normandy for the lead in a back-and-forth second half.
The Vikings led by six points entering the fourth quarter. Eight straight points from Republic put the Tigers up 44-42 with just under five minutes remaining.
Terry White’s layup with 1:44 left gave Normandy a 49-48 lead, but two free throws from Dylan Bekemeier put the Tigers back in front.
Republic hit three more free throws before another layup from White put Normandy within 53-51 in the final 14 seconds. Bekemeier then hit one of two free throws.
A desperation 3-point attempt from Normandy’s Gerard Fuller just before the buzzer was well off the mark, leading to Republic players and coaches celebrating at mid-court.
Fisher said he didn’t think about fouling to prevent Normandy from attempting the game-tying 3. He trusted his defense, he said.
“I was not thinking foul because we would’ve had to throw the ball in underneath the basket if they made both free throws,” Fisher said. “Besides, we’ve relied on our defense all year.”
The state title is sweet redemption for several of Republic’s senior players, who were on the varsity when the Tigers took fourth in 2010.
“When we were freshmen, Grant Hancock, Marcus Miller and myself… we all promised each other that we’d get back to state as seniors,” said Republic guard Jake Fletcher, who scored 12.
The game nearly got away from Republic in the middle two quarters.
Republic led 22-12 two minutes into the second quarter on a layup from Geiger. From there, the Tigers’ offense disappeared.
Republic scored just one field goal until a runner from Bekemeier at the 3:46 mark of the third quarter rejuvenated the Tigers, who at that point trailed 31-27.
Normandy, though, held strong and led 42-36 entering the fourth.
Republic was able to get Normandy leading scorer Kevin McLemore in early foul trouble. McLemore committed his second personal foul two minutes into the game and his third late in the second quarter.
He played 22 minutes but still had 13 points. Fuller led the Vikings with 14.
Republic out-rebounded Normandy 27-19. The Tigers committed just two turnovers in the second half after totaling 12 in the first half, and area Fisher said made the difference in the game.
Normandy 10 16 16 9 --- 51
Republic – Cody Geiger 20, Jake Fletcher 12, Dylan Bekemeier 10, Grant Hancock 7, Canyon Smith 5
Normandy – Gerard Fuller 14, Kevin McLemore 13, Terry White 12, Bryson Jenkins 6, Justin Batchelor 4, Tarrick Blair 2
FULL BOX SCORE