With the game on the line, the Republic Tigers turned to Cody Geiger.
Geiger, a 6-3 junior forward, netted 11 points in the fourth quarter and eight in a row to lift the Tigers over Borgia Saturday at Drury University in Springfield, 46-33.
“They really do have a good team,” Borgia Head Coach Dave Neier said. “I’m going to give them all the credit in the world. They made sure they got good shots. They shot the ball extremely well. They had a really high percentage in the game and were very patient on offense.”
Borgia ended the season at 20-9 while Republic (26-4) will play Liberty North (22-5) in the Class 4 semifinals Thursday in Columbia. The game starts at 5:10 p.m.
“I’m just very pleased with our kids’ effort and the way they withstood their run at the end and were able to get the win,” said Republic Head Coach Trevyor Fisher.
Playing in the O’Reilly Event Center, the Knights had fought back from a deficit to cut Republic’s lead to one point after three quarters, 29-28.
And Borgia had chances to take the lead late in the third quarter and early in the fourth quarter.
But Republic was able to add to the lead and was up by four points with less than five minutes left in the game when Geiger took over.
“He was active there in the middle,” Fisher said. “He does a good job attacking the rim. He’s got a knack for the ball. He’s done that all year for us. I’m probably more proud of what he did on the defensive end. He did a good job of guarding his guy and getting some easy rebounds. I was very proud of the way he played.”
Neier agreed that was the game’s key run.
“Geiger took control,” Neier said. “When he caught the ball in the middle, we had trouble stopping him. He’s a finisher. He catches the ball, takes it to the bucket, puts it in, and helps them extend their lead. He took things over and made it tough for us.”
Geiger scored four baskets in a row to build what had been a four-point lead up to 11 before Borgia senior Jordan Miller broke the run with an outside shot. But by then, the damage had been done.
Any thought of a Borgia counterattack was met with the Tigers pushing the ball inside to Geiger, who drove to the basket with authority and finished. Geiger’s three-point play (basket and free throw) with 1:12 to play gave Republic an 11-point lead and all but sealed the outcome.
Borgia scored the game’s first basket, but trailed for most of the contest. Miller hit a three-point basket to give the large Borgia traveling group something to cheer about. Republic countered with the next five points before senior John Baumstark finished a play after Miller stole the ball.
The game was tied again at 7-7 when junior Zac Schweissguth scored.
But Republic found the net more often to lead 13-7 after one quarter and 25-18 at the intermission.
The lead could have been bigger, but Baumstark started and finished a basket to give Borgia momentum going to the break. Baumstark made a steal and passed the ball. The initial shot was missed, but Baumstark got the rebound and put the ball back up and in just prior to the end of the half.
Miller hit a three to start the third quarter and senior Casey Kuchem scored off a steal to cut it to two points.
Republic answered with a basket by senior Tyler Abney, which he tossed at the basket from a close awkward angle and it went in.
The Tigers built the lead back to six points before Borgia surged again. The Knights got five points in a row from Schweissguth to cut the deficit to one point, 29-28, with 1:08 left in the quarter.
The Knights had chances, both close and on long shots, to take the lead, but couldn’t and Republic led 29-28 after three quarters.
“We came out and played with some energy to try to get back into the ballgame,” Neier said. “We put more pressure on them. We got a couple of steals and forced them into mistakes. We got a couple of easy buckets on layups and put shots in. We got the momentum going in our direction.”
Fisher said his team forgot how to play for a little bit.
“No doubt about it, we just went brain-dead for five or six minutes and had too many turnovers,” Fisher said. “We allowed them to get some easy baskets. The last four or five minutes, we really took good care of the ball and we hit enough free throws down the stretch.”
Neier said he knows what Republic was facing in that third quarter.
“When you have a lead in the second half with a chance to go to Columbia, you want to do everything you can to hold onto it instead of going out to win the game,” Neier said. “That’s what they did in the fourth quarter. They went out to win the game in the fourth quarter.”
The game had slowed down early in the fourth quarter with Republic leading, 31-29, when Geiger took over.
“But, in the fourth quarter, they went out to win the ballgame and played very smart,” Neier said. “They still hit that great percentage. We started to get into a little bit of a hurry when we got down. We made turnovers which played right into their hands.”
Republic had an easier time finding the cylinder than the Knights. For the game, Republic went 18-26 from the field while hitting three of the four three-point baskets. The Tigers were 7-10 from the free-throw line.
“Any time you can shoot 18-26, you’re going to have a great chance to win,” Fisher said.
Borgia hit 14 of 43 chances from the field while going 3-16 from beyond the arc. The Knights were 2-5 from the free-throw line.
“If we would have shot the ball well, we would have been right there in the ballgame,” Neier said. “We had an opportunity. We missed some easy shots, missed some layups at the basket and missed some wide-open threes we usually hit a good percentage of. We couldn’t quite get going.”
Schweissguth led the Knights in scoring with 12 points. He was 5-10 from the floor while hitting his only three-point attempt and his only free throw. He added two steals, one assist and one rebound.
Miller concluded with eight points, two rebounds, two steals and one assist.
Baumstark chipped in with six points, four rebounds, two assists, two steals and a blocked shot.
Junior Joe Helfrich scored four points with seven rebounds, one assist and one steal.
Kuchem closed with three points, two rebounds, one blocked shot and one steal. He fouled out with 31.1 seconds left in the game, the same time Neier withdrew his starters.
Borgia had no bench points. Senior River Filla and junior Kevin Birk each had one rebound.
Also playing were juniors Tyler Breckenkamp, Parker DuMontier, Collin Mantle and Adam Meyer and sophomore Alex Moss.
“You’re always disappointed losing your last game,” Neier said. “These guys came a long way. At one time, we were 6-6 and we started to change things around a little bit and started to play tougher defense. We got a little more patient on offense and started getting some victories. We made a run here at the end of the season where we won our district, beat a great Hillcrest team in the sectional and had our chances in this game.”
Geiger led Republic in scoring with 17 points. He added two rebounds. Geiger was 8-10 from the field and 1-1 from the free-throw line.
From there, Jacob Fletcher was next with seven points, five assists, three rebounds and a steal.
Marcus Miller concluded the game with six points, two blocked shots and one assist.
Dylan Bekemeier scored five points while adding three assists, three rebounds and a steal.
Canyon Smith came off the bench to score five points with three rebounds and an assist.
Abney scored four points off the bench with two rebounds and a steal.
Grant Hancock added two points, three rebounds and a blocked shot.
Other Tigers playing were Chase Hoffman, Dakota Fortner, Derric Mertes, Brock Yocum (one rebound) and Dillen Ramsey.