With a monster-sized matchup looming, teams often play a stinker leading up to it.
For Republic and West Plains on Tuesday, not so much.
One of the season’s most anticipated basketball games will in fact take place after the Lady Tigers downed Reeds Spring 71-26 and West Plains took care of Rogersville 44-13 in the Class 4 District 11 semifinals at Rogersville High School.
Republic, ranked No. 3 in Class 4 and seeded No. 1 in the tournament, improved to 25-1 overall. The Lady Zizzers, who jumped over Republic to No. 2 in the latest rankings but is seeded second, withstood an interesting strategy by Rogersville to improve to 26-1.
The teams will meet for the district title at 7 p.m. on Friday at Rogersville.
“We’ve been to this place before and we know who we have to stop,” Republic senior guard Alice Heinzler said. “It’s a challenge but one we’re looking forward to.”
West Plains was a bit flummoxed in the nightcap as Rogersville simply tried to keep the ball out of the Lady Zizzers’ hands and clearly had them out of sorts. The Lady Wildcats (7-18) were successful early, holding the ball for almost five minutes of the first quarter until the Lady Zizzers got on the board with a pair of buckets in the final minute for a 4-0 lead.
In the second quarter, West Plains was able to force some turnovers and subsequently score to get a little breathing room. A pair of field goals by Hannah Riggs and Shelby Acklin helped stake the Lady Zizzers to a 17-4 lead at the break.
Cassidy Johnson scored 12 and Andi Haney added 11 to lead West Plains.
“We weren’t really expecting that because it was Rogersville and we expected them to just come out and go,” Acklin said. “We figured it out and our defense started adjusting to it.”
Republic had a much easier time with Reeds Spring (10-16), outscoring them 24-8 in the first quarter as Henizler scored 12 of her game-high 17 points. The Lady Tigers had 12 players score in the contest.
Defense will be a main talking point for both Republic and West Plains in preparation for the finals.
“Republic’s the defending state champs and they’re the favorite,” West Plains coach Scott Womack said. “We’ve got to come out and play our best game of the year and we haven’t been in those type of games this year and Republic has.”
Republic coach Kris Flood said solving West Plains’ matchup zone defense will be of utmost importance.
“One thing for us will be (their) matchup zone,” Flood said. “They’ve done it so much and they are so good at it, and you just aren’t used to seeing it. That could cause us some problems.”
Heinzler said the game is one of those can’t-miss type of games that fans should see.
“That’s a big one and it’s going to be a big game,” she said. “We’re ranked below them right now and we’re just ready to go out there and win. There’s a little bitterness right there.
“But we’ve played 10 state-ranked teams this year and won nine of them, so I think we’ll be ready for it.”