Republic holds off Thayer to win Liberator Tournament championship

By Michael Cignoli (For

BOLIVAR – Less than a month after winning their division at the Blue and Gold tournament, the Republic boys basketball team found a way to win another blue and gold championship.

Well those were the host team’s school colors, anyway.

Three Republic players finished in double-figures as the red-hot Tigers defeated Thayer, 65-57, to win the 88th Annual Liberator Basketball Tournament on Saturday at Bolivar High School.

Brenley Hagewood scored 21 points, Khamari Edwards added 14 and Ahlante Askew contributed 13 for the Tigers, who improved to 18-1 on the season and have yet to lose to an in-state school.

“We have guys that are bought in,” Republic coach Tim Brown said. “You don’t have a year like we’re having without buy in from every single guy and we don’t take that lightly. We play the way that we play that gives us success and everyone’s bought into that. It’s allowed us to have a fun start so far.”

Fun might be a slight understatement.

Republic has now won 17 in a row since falling to Springdale, Arkansas, in the season-opening Republic Invitational, a run that includes their first Blue and Gold tournament title since 2016.


The Tigers have climbed to seventh place in the latest Class 6 rankings, and withstood a late rally to become one of just two Missouri teams to beat a Thayer squad ranked fifth in Class 3.

The Bobcats (12-4) trailed by 12 points late in the fourth quarter before going on a 13-3 run in a little more than two minutes, trimming Republic’s lead to 57-55 with 43.8 seconds to play.

But the Bobcats were whistled for an intentional foul — and then a technical for arguing the call — giving Republic four consecutive free throws and allowing the Tigers to retain possession.

That pivotal sequence killed Thayer’s momentum, and they made just one shot the rest of the afternoon. Republic closed on an 8-2 run to join Mansfield and the Arkansas schools in Nettleton and Harrison as the only teams to defeat last year’s third-place Class 3 team.

“It was a rollercoaster,” Hagewood said. “They were throwing things at us that we had not seen before. They were pushing it hard. They were very scrappy pressuring us. At times, we had a couple of errors but I feel like in the end — like Coach Brown said — we all had our oar in the water. Even on the bench, energy was high. Kept us rolling. I think that’s what climbed us back out and held them off from coming back all the way.”

For as dominant as Thayer was in the final moments, Republic was just as strong at the opening tip.

Hagewood opened the game with a huge 3-pointer and Edwards scored six points in the paint as the Tigers surged to an early 13-2 lead. But Thayer stormed back with a 13-0 run that stretched into a back-and-forth second quarter, which saw six lead changes in eight minutes.


But Jordan Douglas hit a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to give the Tigers a 25-22 lead going into the break, setting the tone for a third quarter in which the Tigers built a 10-point advantage.

Douglas added a second buzzer-beater at the end of the third and then hit another trey to open the fourth, and the Tigers eventually stretched their lead to 14 points before Thayer’s final push.

“We feel like the games that we’re able to get off to a good start kind of sets the tone and allows us to kind of dictate how we want the game to be played,” Brown said. “We have good guards and when you have good guards and you’re able to dictate the way the game is going to be played, you feel like good things are usually going to happen. I’m just proud of our guys. They stepped up, made plays and everybody that played for us had some moment tonight that helped us win the game.”

The Tigers have already surpassed their win total from last season, a 15-12 campaign that was plagued by injuries and illnesses and are just five wins away from securing their most successful season — in terms of victories — since the team won its second consecutive state title in 2014.

With two tournament titles under their belts, the Tigers now shift their focus to the heart of their Central Ozark Conference schedule — which resumes when Branson visits Republic on Tuesday.

Republic is 2-0 in the COC, which also happens to be its record in tournament title games.

That’s a fitting coincidence, given how the team is approaching these next few weeks.

“Every league game you play is a championship game,” Brown said. “If you want to win the COC, you better win as many of those things as you can and that’s how we try to approach every league game. We had a good effort tonight playing for a championship game. That’s the expectation that we’re going to have for our guys on Tuesday when we play.”

Aidan Burns scored 30 points for Thayer, which hosts Willow Springs on Tuesday.

CHAMPIONSHIP: Republic 65, Thayer 57

Republic – 13-12-14-26 — 65
Thayer – 10-12-7-28 — 57

R: Brenley Hagewood 21, Khamari Edwards 14, Ahlante Askew 13, Jordan Douglas 9, Gunner Ellison 3, Aslan Ebisch 3, Isaiah Nabors 2
T: Aiden Burns 30, Easton Pitts 10, Rowan Spencer 10, Devin Harrington 7

THIRD PLACE: Bolivar 73, Helias 59

Bolivar – 25-21-17-10 — 73
Helias – 14-15-23-7 — 59

B: Mason Wilson 29, Kyle Pock 14, Gardner Casey 9, Kaden Griswold 9, Trenton Patke 6, Ricky Gooding 6
H: Bexton 14, Neuenswager 13, Wenegar 11, Hillman 7, Lopez 5, Weavor 3, King 3, Rembocki 2, Wood 1


CONSOLATION: Camdenton 63, Strafford 58

Camdenton – 21-17-13-12 — 63
Strafford – 13-15-16-14 — 58

C: Aaron Poage 22, Oscar Robbins 11, Brody Ingold 10, Kam Durnin 6, Javari Stewart 4, Cooper Barrett 4, Tobyn Dudley 3, Tommy McElyea 2, Shayden Sapaugh 1
S: A.K. Rael 15, Cody Voysey 11, Jourdyn Edelstein 8, Elliott Goings 7, Isaac Berg 7, Brady Ripp 4, Luke Crandall 3, Braden Willard 3


SEVENTH PLACE: West Plains , Branson 60

West Plains – 19-17-29-23 — 88
Branson – 18-14-11-17 — 60

WP: Garrett Mahan 30, Briggs Hughston 13, Blake Harris 11, Aiden Simpson 11, Hollis Deckard 9, Clayton Robbins 5, Ethan Tuma 5, Alex Judd 2, Grant Mahan 2
B: Justin Gill 14, Kamden Sutton 11, Tegan Asbury 12, Jayce Culver 10, Nolan Toliver 8, Peyton Bough 5


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