REPUBLIC — It seemed as if the Neosho Lady Wildcats were well on their way to a win Monday night over Central Ozark Conference Large rival Republic.

Early in the second half, Neosho took a 29-14 lead on Ashley Talley’s free throw.

Alas, the Republic Lady Tigers and namely sharpshooter Megan Branstetter had other ideas, as she hit five 3-point shots in the second half to help Republic outscore Neosho 22-6 to end the third quarter and 45-23 to end the game in a 59-52 win for Republic.

Makayla Hayes and Caitlyn Jordon led the way for the Lady Wildcats with 21 and 15 points, respectively. Tori Frazier and Allison Burr added seven and six, respectively, for a 12-6 Neosho squad that’s dropped three of its last four games entering Thursday’s COC clash against Branson.

Branstetter led Republic with 21 points, while Brylee Manes and Halli Bartelsmeyer added 15 and 12 points, respectively, for three double-digit scorers.

“They hit some very timely threes in the second half,” Neosho head coach Grant Berendt told Josh King of “I was just talking with our girls at the end of the game. In my four years here, that may have been the best first-half defensive effort that we’ve put together. We were engaged, we knew our assignments, we did our gameplan to a T, and it showed. Despite their record, they played one of the toughest Class 5 schedules in the state, we held them to 11 points. Now they missed some shots that they normally don’t miss, but we did a good job. When you come out and give up 11 in the first half and then 48 in the second, that tells a little bit about you defensively and the pride you take in getting stops. We just didn’t show that (second half).”

It was truly a game of two halves.

As Berendt mentioned in his interview, Neosho surrendered 11 Republic points in the first half, then 48 in the second as the Lady Wildcats seemed unable to stop the bleeding.

Republic hit no 3-pointers in the first half and made six in the second half.

Early on, though, it was a great start for the Lady Wildcats, who went on a 7-0 run for a 7-2 lead after two 3-pointers by Hayes.

Neosho went on a 6-0 run for a 13-4 lead and then a 8-0 run near the end of the first half for a 23-9 advantage, the Lady Wildcats’ biggest lead of the night at that point.

The Lady Wildcats led 23-11 at halftime, thanks to holding Republic to six in the first and five in the second.

Neosho, 12-6 overall and 1-2 COC Large, returns home Thursday for that contest against Branson, who once seemed to be the beast of the COC this season before sophomore Priscilla Williams left not only the team but the Branson school district.

With Williams, Branson entered the Class 5 state rankings … but on Monday, Nixa dispatched Branson 64-40.