It’s hard to imagine a 21-point defeat being a positive, but it was exactly that Tuesday night for the Central Bulldogs.
Republic’s 61-40 victory at Central was actually a positive sign for Bulldogs’ coach Armando Johnson, whose team was coming off an 0-3 weekend at the NEO Tournament.
“Given the weekend we just had, if we had played anywhere near what we did tonight, we would have come out of that tournament 2-1,” Johnson said. “I applaud the kids, especially for the second half. I can’t complain.”
The Bulldogs dropped all three games — to St. Louis Christian, Monett and Grove, Okla. — after having sizable late leads in the latter two games before the wheels fell off.
Were it not for a bad first half, the Bulldogs (3-14) would have been within a puncher’s chance of one of the area’s best teams on Tuesday.
Marcus Miller and Cody Geiger each scored six points as Republic (17-2) jumped out to a 17-5 lead after one quarter with a crisp display of ball movement. Central struggled to score, missing several interior shots and sinking just one field goal in the period.
“Those missed layups, they come back to haunt you,” Johnson said. “I’ve told our kids, if we don’t do anything this summer, we need to shoot so much that it becomes instinct to make easy shots.”
Republic continued to dominate inside in the second quarter as Geiger scored eight more of his 20 points in the period. Central was a little better offensively, but the Tigers held a comfortable 35-17 lead at the break.
“First half, we did a nice a job of attacking their pressure and getting some easy ones and getting the ball inside,” Republic coach Trevyor Fisher said. “In the second half, I think we lost our focus and started taking some quick shots and kind of playing an up-and-down game, out of control.
“Credit them for forcing us to do that, but when we get out on a lead like that we have to do a better job of finishing the game.”
Central opened the second half on an 11-2 run, keyed by a pair of field goals from Landon Shelton. A pair of late buckets by Geiger helped Republic stave off an abysmal third quarter and push the lead back to 45-28 with an 8-0 run to close it out.
Republic scored just 23 points in the second half, 14 from the free-throw line.
“One of the things we do, we tell kids to fight for the five-second count,” Johnson said. “Today was the first time that I saw them buy into that concept. As these kids get older and more athletic, I think it’s going to be hurting some people.”
Miller scored 11 points and Ty Abney came off the bench to score 12 for Republic, which plays at Webb City on Friday night and is trying to get back on a roll after dropping a game to host Rogersville in the Wildcats’ tournament last week.
“I think with an inexperienced team, that could be difficult,” Fisher said.
“But we’ve got enough veteran guys to where that shouldn’t affect us a whole lot. But we have a really tough schedule coming up and we need to not worry (about losses) and just keep trying to get better for later in the year.”
Quatrevius Robinson scored 13 points, D’Angelo Bedell added 12 and Shelton finished with 11 to pace Central. Up next for the Bulldogs is a home game with Rock Bridge next Tuesday.