Southwest Missouri teams went 3-0 on championship Saturday last weekend during the first wave of state basketball.
The Republic boys and Webb City girls will look to keep the record perfect today in Class 4 state championship games at Mizzou Arena, and mimicked two of them with late morning/early afternoon practices at Columbia College on the day between the semifinal and final.
Republic and Webb City will face much different challenges today than the ones they faced during Thursday semifinal wins.
Republic (27-4) is playing Normandy in a 3 p.m. final. Following that game, Webb City (25-5) plays unbeaten Incarnate Word at 4:50 p.m.
Last weekend, Crane (Class 2 girls), Walnut Grove (Class 1 girls) and Eminence (Class 1 boys) earned titles for the region.
The Republic Tigers, in search of their second state title and first since 1963, are in for lots of full-court pressure after grinding out a 39-38 semifinal win against Liberty North.
“They really want to get up and down the floor and they’ll press you,” Republic coach Trevyor Fisher said. “They’ll shoot it quick and try to speed you up as quick as possible, and get the game going 100 miles an hour.”
That means guards such as Ty Abney, Jake Fletcher and Dylan Bekemeier will need to step up. It’s fitting, too, as posts Grant Hancock and Marcus Miller scored 10 points apiece in the semifinal, including Miller’s game-winner with 6.5 seconds to play.
The team stayed poised, something Bekemeier is used to, as he won a Class 3 state golf championship for the Tigers in 2012.
“Once we get excited and pumped up for games, we go out there and show it, and we do what we can to get the win,” Bekemeier said. “But if we can contain them to just shooting outside shots and not getting to the rim, I think we should be OK.”
Normandy (20-8) survived a 74-72 overtime game in the semifinal on Thursday, and are led by 6-foot senior guard Kevin McLemore, brother of University of Kansas star Ben McLemore.
The deep Vikings have a versatile and balanced squad all that has athleticism.
Republic’s best athlete, junior Cody Geiger, said it’s surreal to be playing for a state title today, but experience including the program’s second straight Greenwood Blue and Gold Tournament title makes it easier to handle.
“It’s kind of like, I can’t believe that we’re actually here, it’s so exciting,” Geiger said. “But in the Blue and Gold, we played at MSU in a big arena, so we’re used to it, and it definitely helps.”
Bekemeier said the pressure by Normandy reminded the Tigers of AAU basketball, which has helped prepare the Tigers for the matchup.
“They’re quick, they’re fast, and their hands are everywhere,” Bekemeier said. “I haven’t seen it since summer, though, and it’ll be an adjustment to get used to it.”
Webb City will face a challenge unlike any it’s seen this season in Incarnate Word, ranked No. 9 nationally by MaxPreps and No. 12 in the USA TODAY Super 25.
The Red Knights (30-0) are led by 6-foot-1 sophomore forward Napheesa Collier, who was recently named Gatorade Missouri Player of the Year.
“We’ve heard that we have no chance of winning, but that just ignites a fire inside of us,” Webb City junior Mikaela Burgess said. “We’ve made it this far, and nobody said we could do it. We won’t let up and we’re going to work just as hard to get that victory.”