COLUMBIA — A second chance.
By SAM McDOWELL
The Kansas City Star
That simple phrase perfectly summed up a complex finish between Liberty North and Republic in the Class 4 semifinals — one that left the Eagles searching for answers and sent Republic to the Class 4 state championship game at Mizzou Arena.
Republic senior Marcus Miller made good use of his second chance. Liberty North never got one.
Miller made a game-winning layup — rebounding his own miss with 6.5 seconds remaining to lift Republic to a 38-37 win in the Class 4 semifinals Thursday at Mizzou Arena.
In search of the first state championship in school history, Liberty North will instead play in the third-place game for the second consecutive season.
“I’m devastated for our team, for our players,” Liberty coach Chris McCabe said. “The worst part about it is we can’t go back and change it, and that’s what we want to do.”
If Liberty North had the choice, it would probably just opt to replay the fourth quarter.
Or perhaps only the final sequence.
Zach Starr gave the Eagles, 25-5, a one-point lead on a drive to the basket with 1:21 remaining. Those were Liberty North’s only two points in the fourth quarter, but they were nearly enough.
On the ensuring possession, Republic guard Canyon Smith missed a three-pointer with 10 seconds remaining, and Liberty North forward Ian Sanderford pulled down the rebound. But when Sanderford tried to gain his balance, he tripped over Miller and was whistled for traveling.
Following a timeout, Republic drew up a play for Miller under the basket. He missed an uncovered layup but made a put-back that proved to be the game-winning shot. Senior Jake Hanson’s 25-foot heave at the buzzer fell well short of the iron.
“I’m speechless,” Starr said. “It’s a horrible feeling to lose by one possession in this big of a game.”
Liberty North used an 11-0 run to turn a halftime deficit into a 36-30 lead with 2:19 remaining in the third quarter. But in a slow-paced game, the Eagles scored only one basket over the final eight minutes.
No players scored in double figures for Liberty North, which will face Sikeston at noon today in the third-place game.
Class 4 girls: Webb City 54, Smithville 53
If the Smithville playoff run had to end, this certainly wasn’t how the Warriors envisioned it.
After all, late-game dramatics have been so kind to the Warriors this postseason.
But not this time.
Smithville came up on play short Thursday night, falling 54-53 to Webb City in the Class 4 girls semifinals. The Warriors, 25-5, will play Dexter in the third-place game at 1:40 p.m. today.
Five days after senior Maddie Nelson drove in for a game-winning layup to defeat Notre Dame de Sion in the quarterfinals, the Warriors earned an opportunity to repeat recent history. Trailing by four, Nelson completed a three-point play to the pull the Warriors within one with 12 seconds left, and Bethany Pierce forced a turnover in the backcourt on the ensuing possession.
With 4.8 seconds remaining, Smithville coach Trevor Mosby called timeout, but the Warriors failed to get an open look, and Paige Imhoff’s desperation three-pointer at the buzzer didn’t draw iron. Imhoff led Smithville with 19 points.
“I’m a little disappointed, but I’m so proud of the girls for fighting back,” Mosby said. “They executed everything they were supposed to until the last play. (I) didn’t draw up a very good play.”
Smithville trailed for the entire night until Abby Waters’ layup with 6:40 remaining gave the Warriors a one-point lead.
“I didn’t have a doubt in my mind we were (going to win),” Nelson said. “I feel like we really could’ve won that game.”
To reach Sam McDowell, send email to email@example.com.