Final shot won’t fall for Republic in district loss, end season at 20-7

For the second time this season, Joplin got the breaks and made the plays in the final minutes to beat Republic. This time, it was for a district championship in a 55-54 victory. After Joplin’s Zach Westmoreland made one of two free throws, Republic had a final good look at the basket. Point guard Race Looney floated a baseline jumper from eight feet out that went partway through the hoop before bouncing out. From there, Joplin managed to close out the win and advance to the state sectionals to play Kickapoo.
With the game tied 44-44 and 44 seconds remaining, Joplin had the ball and a chance to take the last shot just before the buzzer. Instead of letting that happen, the Tigers opted to foul Westmoreland, who has struggled at the free throw line all year and missed several free throws in the district semifinal against Willard. With about 10 seconds remaining, Westmoreland hit the front end of the one-and-one to give Joplin a lead.
“As coaches, we spend a lot of time scouting teams. We look at their stats, we watch film. [Westmoreland] struggles from the foul line,” Brown said. “It seemed like they had had multiple possessions where we couldn’t get stops. They were going to hold it for the last shot. We’ve seen them do that time and time again and something we talked about on Tuesday watching their game with Willard [was] in the same situation, what do we do? And we decided we were going to foul .. to put him on the line. Give him credit, he made one, [but] missed the second one to give us a chance to win the game.”
After Westmoreland’s miss, Looney raced the ball up-court and eventually found himself on the baseline, guarded by Isaiah Davis. He floated the ball over Davis’s hand, and the ball looked like it would go through before it rimmed out. “We had an unbelievable look,” Brown said. “You never sleep well after a loss, but I can live with knowing that we got what we wanted from the player that we wanted, and a kid who’s had a fantastic career and one of the greats to put on a Republic jersey.”
Republic led throughout the first half, despite playing much of the second quarter without Looney, who got in early foul trouble. In the third quarter, Joplin outscored Republic 15-11 to take a 33-31 lead going into the final period. And in the fourth quarter, Joplin used dribble penetration to hurt the Tigers with close-range buckets. Joplin guard Always Wright scored seven of his 12 points in the fourth quarter to help fight off Republic in the final minutes.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever been more proud of a group of guys than I am of this group right here,” Brown said. “They stuck together. We’ve got some great leadership in that locker room –– some guys that not only had successful careers and can continue to have successful careers, but we’ve got some really high-character guys in that locker room.
Drew McMillin scored 15 points to lead Republic. Joe Rexroat scored 14 in his final game as a Tiger. Looney, also playing in his last game, scored all five of his points in the fourth quarter. The game was also the final appearance in a Tiger uniform for Will Berry, Nate Woolford, and Trevor Porter.
Republic scoring: Drew McMillin 15, Joe Rexroat 14, Race Looney 5,
Ahlante Askew 5, Carson Neff 5


Lawrence County Record

312 S. Hickory St.
Mt. Vernon, MO, 65712


Please Login for Premium Content