The Republic High School boys basketball team created memories Saturday that will last a lifetime.
If they aren’t sure, they can check with the old coach.
The Tigers won the Class 4 state championship, 54-51 against Normandy at Mizzou Arena, for their first boys title since Leland Brown led the Tigers to the championship in 1963.
“The whole team, as a whole, (former coach) Gary Stanfield left coach (Trevyor) Fisher a good group of kids,” Brown said. “Trevyor Fisher has taken these kids and molded them into the team they needed to be each night.”
That versatility was key as they needed different contributors than in Thursday’s semifinal and different strengths to shine against Normandy, which attempted to push the tempo throughout.
Republic’s coach Fisher said the posts stepped up Thursday and the guards were key Saturday. After 12 turnovers in the first half, Republic committed just two after halftime.
“That was the key to the game,” Fisher said. “We don’t rely on one part of our game to carry us through. From game to game, you never know if it’s going to be our inside guys, or guards.
“We just kind of had all the right pieces, and more importantly, some great team chemistry to go along with that.”
Junior Cody Geiger scored 20 points and had 10 rebounds for the Tigers (28-4), who went to state twice since the ’63 title.
The teams stayed close early, but Jake Fletcher hustled up the court to bank home a 30-foot, running 3-pointer at the first-quarter buzzer to put Republic up 15-10.
The Tigers then took their largest lead at 22-12 with 5:57 left in the half. However, Kevin McLemore knocked down a 3-pointer and then made three free throws to key a 14-1 Normandy run, and Republic’s halftime deficit was 26-25.
Normandy upped its lead to 42-36 heading into the fourth quarter. The turning point came early in the fourth when McLemore, younger brother of Kansas standout Ben McLemore, committed his fourth foul with 7:11 to play.
With the point guard on the bench, Republic scored six straight and regained the lead. In all, Republic scored the first 10 points of the fourth quarter and led 46-42 after the run.
“That was big,” Normandy coach Terrence Hamilton said. “I know Kevin is only trying to help the ball club… but that kind of broke our momentum, and from there we were playing catch up.”
Normandy would fight back and take a 49-48 lead with 1:35 remaining on a Terry White driving layup, but the Tigers then made five of six free throws, including two from Geiger which proved to be the game-winners.
The Vikings (20-9) had one last chance to send the game to overtime. Gerard Fuller’s desperate attempt was well short.
“We promised we’d get back here,” said Fletcher, who was a bench player for the team’s 2010 trip to state. “And we fulfilled everything we wanted to do.”
A 1:30 p.m. rally today at the high school will honor the champions, who join their ’63 brethren in a championship fraternity of sorts.
“Just to see the memories that they had, and how they still have friendships today even though they live all across the country, it’s pretty special,” Fisher said of the ’63 team. “I was telling our group in the locker room: 50 years from now, we’ll be doing the same thing.”