For the second night in a row, Ozark played spoiler on Republic’s Senior Night. Tuesday, the Ozark boys jumped ahead and held off a late Republic rally for a 56-50 win, avenging a loss to Republic in the semifinals of the Blue & Gold Tournament in December.
Ozark implemented a similar defense to the one Nixa used successfully against Republic last week, covering Broc Smith and Trent Rackley man-to-man and playing a loose zone on everyone else. In the first half, Smith had only three points, and Rackley was shut out, as Ozark built a 20-13 lead at the midway point.
Republic coach Trevyor Fisher thought his team’s performance wasn’t a whole lot different than the one that earned them the win against Ozark in December, despite the different outcome.
“[Ozark] made a few more shots. We turned it over a little bit earlier in the game and gave them some transition points,” Fisher says. “We were pretty selective in the first half…so we felt pretty good going in down seven at halftime.”
Ozark stretched the lead to 12 points in the fourth quarter, at 34-22, but Republic put together one more run, closing the gap to four, 48-44, in the final minutes. Race Looney came up bit in the fourth quarter, scoring seven of his 12 points, to help the Tigers climb back into the game.
But Republic failed to close out defensive stops at key moments, allowing Ozark to rebound a couple of missed shots, and Ozark hit enough free throws down the stretch to hold on.
The loss was the third straight for Republic to close out the regular season, but Fisher says he’s not worried about the way his team is playing.
“I don’t think we played great against Nixa. We played okay against Willard, but if we play like we did tonight, I’ll take our chances against most opponents,” Fisher says. “I think we can build on it. I told the guys in the locker room that everything we set out to accomplish at the beginning of the year is still in front of us, and now it’s time to just go do it.”
Before the game, Republic honored senior Hunter Creek in his final home game. Republic also honored senior managers Chan Duryea and Dylan Girdley, who’ve earned their own following with their pregame dance routines and antics on the sideline.
Creek is the only senior who played basketball every season since seventh grade, despite the fact he didn’t see very many varsity minutes until this year.
“It’s very easy for kids who don’t have that instant success on the varsity to just decide to quit and do something else, but he stuck with it,” Fisher says of Creek. “He works extremely hard every day in practice. He plays extremely hard, and he’s really gotten the most season that we could have asked for.”
Broc Smith 16, Race Looney 12, Hunter Creek 10, Trent Rackley 5, Tucker Thomas 4, Drew McMillin 3