If only all the games pitting state-ranked opponents — endlessly hyped for months — would actually turn out like this.
Two of the state’s top Class 4 girls’ basketball teams hooked up in a classic Friday night at Rogersville High School and it took an overtime buzzer-beater to finish the deal.
Senior Hannah Riggs’ 12-foot jumper at the buzzer gave No. 2-ranked West Plains a 59-58 overtime win over No. 3-ranked Republic in the District 11 championship game.
“It was what everyone thought it would be,” Riggs said. “I just threw it up there and it went in and I was like, ‘Oh my goodness, it went in.’
“Everything kind of slowed down even though everyone was going crazy.”
West Plains (27-1) advances to Wednesday’s sectional round and will play either Webb City (21-5) or Carthage (18-10) at 7:45 p.m. Republic, which won the Class 4 title last year, finished 25-2.
It was an offensive rebound by BreAnna Harris and a quick pass to Riggs that even gave the Lady Zizzers that chance. Republic had fought through the loss of its best player, to fouls, to go ahead 56-55 on Alex Botkin’s 3-pointer.
Following a layin by West Plains’ Shelby Acklin that gave the Lady Zizzers the lead, Republic’s Kayla Bartlesmeyer calmly sank two free throws with 11.5 seconds left in the overtime.
A missed 3-pointer came out long to Harris, who found Riggs just outside the lane.
“It’s hard to lose in overtime on a buzzer-beater,” Republic coach Kris Flood said. “I’d rather I guess maybe get beat by 10 or 12. When she let it go, I was over on the bench and I could just tell it was going to go in.”
Riggs’ most important play — and she had several — might have actually come in the fourth quarter. She drew a charge on Republic senior Alice Heinzler, her fifth foul, with the score tied at 49 and 2:12 remaining. Heinzler left with a team-high 22 points but almost as importantly, was Republic’s point guard.
The Lady Tigers’ offense was never the same after that, committing five costly turnovers from that point. Republic had 19 turnovers on the night.
“That was big when you get an all-stater out of the game,” West Plains coach Scott Womack said. “She’s done that all year and that was big. I knew right there we had a shot.”
West Plains had to rally after trailing 31-21 at halftime as Heinzler drained a 25-footer at the buzzer, part of her 15 points in the half.
The Lady Zizzers cut it to 40-35 at the end of the third and used a 6-3 run to get within a possession. It was Riggs’ 3-pointer, with 3:07 left in regulation, that tied it at 49 and eventually forced the overtime.
Senior Andi Haney led West Plains with 27 points and Acklin added 11 to lead the Lady Zizzers.
“We play the game to see who can win,” Haney said. “I do feel for (Republic) because they came out and played just as hard as we did. We could have been on that side of it.”
Sarah Kreul scored 12 in her final game for Republic, which also loses Bartlesmeyer and Lindsay Carlson to graduation. Those four were at the cornerstone of some of the Lady Tigers’ better teams.
“We were in a spot where, prior to them coming in, we had some lean years there,” an emotional Flood said. “They’ve had a tremendous run and it’s hard to see them go. They’re all going to college and they all have more things to look forward too.
“It’s tough and it’s going to be a tough for a day or two or whatever to recover.”