Overtime loss ends quest for another Final Four

Republic’s bid for a second consecutive appearance in the girls basketball final four fell just short Saturday in a 59-55 loss to Columbia Rock Bridge in overtime at the state quarterfinals. Rock Bridge avenged last year’s quarterfinal loss in the same arena – at Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar – by outscoring Republic 15-11 in the extra period to move on.
Rock Bridge controlled the game in the opening minutes, scoring nine straight points to take a 9-2 lead, and holding Republic to just two points over the first seven and a half minutes. A three-pointer by Savana Powell-Goodman sparked the Lady Tigers near the end of the quarter, and Republic trailed 10-5 after one.
In the second quarter, Republic started connecting on its shots, and its defense began to cause trouble for Rock Bridge. The Lady Tigers outscored Rock Bridge 16-9, and a three-pointer by Kaitlyn Ragsdale just ahead of the halftime buzzer gave Republic its first lead of the night at 21-19.
“We fell behind like we’ve done. We fell behind a few times here in this stretch and battled back. That shot by Kaitlyn there at halftime was a shot in the arm and kind of gave us a little momentum,” Flood said. “We just never could get where we could get comfortable. Every time we were in a spot to maybe get it to two possessions or something like that, they’d hit a shot.”
Republic seized the momentum in the third quarter, leading by as many as six points twice. The Lady Tigers had at least one opportunity to stretch the lead to three possessions, but Rock Bridge got a defensive stop and scored at the other end.
When the fourth quarter began, Republic led 33-32, and the Lady Tigers stayed in front most of the way. Two free throws by Kaemyn Bekemeier gave Republic a 44-41 lead with 1:02 remaining. But Rock Bridge senior Eryn Puett drained a three-pointer with 40 seconds left to tie the game at 44. She finished with 19 points to lead Rock Bridge, and 14 of those came in the fourth quarter or overtime.
Republic held the ball for a final shot, but a pass deflection by Rock Bridge’s Sanaa’ St. Andre broke up the play and kept the game tied as regulation ended.
Bekemeier scored the first basket of overtime, but Avery Kroenke made one of her two overtime three-pointers to give Rock Bridge the lead, and Republic never went back on top.
Republic wraps up its season with a 20-10 record. They reached 20 wins despite losing Clara Fronabarger and Shealyn Barrett to injury around the same time in January. This season mirrored last year, when the Lady Tigers responded to Avylina Powell-Qualo’s injury by making a deep playoff run.
“We would love to have two more games, but looking back, this group has overcome a lot of things this year – injuries, and usually having a smaller group. They always fought through. They always persevered. I’ve said that so many times here in the last month – they fight through things,” Flood said.
It was the last game as Lady Tigers for five seniors: Shealyn Barrett, Jade Kirby, Delaney Smith, Carle Ward, and Whitney Weaver.
“These seniors, they’re going to be fine,” Flood said. “I told them it’s going to hurt a little bit, but they’re such a great group of kids. They’re great academically. They’ve got a lot to look forward to as they move on.”
The teams played in front of a nearly empty arena because of restrictions imposed by MSHSAA to try to minimize the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus. Only 60 people from each school were allowed into the building – included players, coaches, and administrators. But once the game got started, Flood said he didn’t really notice.
“We talked about it, and I said, ‘Girls, once the ball is tipped, it’s going to be like any other game.’ I didn’t feel it, and I don’t think the kids really ever noticed it or paid attention to it,” he said. “I’m just glad we got the chance to play it. They could very well have just totally called it off, and we would have been done after Wednesday. We really had an opportunity to win the game and just couldn’t get over that hump.”
The semifinals and finals, it turns out, will not be played. MSHSAA canceled those games Monday because of the spread of the COVID-19 illness.

Republic scoring: Kaemyn Bekemeier 23, Savana Powell-Goodman 13, Jade Kirby 9, Jazzy Kirby 7, Kaitlyn Ragsdale 3


Lawrence County Record

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Mt. Vernon, MO, 65712


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