The Neosho girls basketball team gave Republic a run for its money on Monday in a Central Ozark Conference tilt at Republic High School.
After playing even with the Lady Tigers in the first half, even going ahead 7-0 to start the game, the Lady Wildcats fell behind in the third quarter and never recovered, falling 58-44.
With the score tied at 31 at the half, perhaps the Lady Wildcats' performance in the early going awakened the No. 2 team in Class 4 as the Lady Tigers (19-0) went on a 16-4 run in the third quarter to grab the lead for good.
The game was decided at the free throw line, however, as Republic was successful on 20 attempts from the line, while the Lady Wildcats struggled to get there.
"We got off to a good start early," Neosho coach Lance Robbins said. "We got them down 7-0, and I felt like that kind of helped our confidence early.
"We guarded really well, especially in the first half, but I felt like we guarded pretty well all night long."
Robbins credited point guard Morgan Rathmann for breaking Republic's press and getting the ball inside to the post, where Morgan Rogers led the team with 17 points. But the Lady Tigers just wouldn't go away.
Alice Heinzler had the hot-hand for Republic, as she gave Neosho fits from the floor and finished with 17 points. Meanwhile, teammate Alex Botkin netted 15 points, while Sarah Kreul had 11, Micah Mansker one, Kayla Bartlesmeyer two, Lindsey Carlson seven and Tori Taylor four.
Behind Rogers, the Lady Wildcats (8-12, 0-2 conference) received contributions from Corea Lowery with 10 points, Chelsey Henry six, Rathmann five, Emily Harrell four and Whitney Wise two.
Aside from the third quarter, the Lady Wildcats looked like team that can compete with anyone in the conference.
"We just never could recover once they got that lead," Robbins said. "I think we played well and proved to ourselves that we're capable of playing at a high level with some of the toughest teams in our conference and the state. We've just got to do it night in and night out."
Republic won the junior varsity game, 67-12.
The Lady Wildcats are back in action when they travel to Ozark at 6 p.m. Thursday. That game, originally scheduled for Neosho, has been moved to Ozark where the Tigers will instead entertain Neosho's boys and girls for homecoming.