By Anvil Welch
Globe Sports Writer
Webb City’s girls need a win Thursday night to get back in the chase for basketball supremacy in the Central Ozark Conference Large Division.
All they have to do is beat Republic.
Yes, that Republic (17-0). Coach Kris Flood’s defending MSHSAA Class 4 champion Tigers visit with the junior varsity game opening the program at 6 p.m.
Republic isn’t ranked No. 1 this season by Missouri Basketball Coaches Association/MOsports.com. The Tigers are second to St. Louis Incarnate Word (also unbeaten and moving from Class 5).
Webb City, which also dropped from Class 5, is ranked 10th. The Cardinals are 16-3 with a five-game winning streak since losing 58-54 on Jan. 7 at Ozark. That’s the Cardinals’ only league outing. Republic, in its previous league contest, handled Carthage.
Republic, which defeated Smithville 53-51 for the 2012 title in Mizzou Arena at Columbia, has an exceptional mix of talented youngsters and salty veterans, Cardinal coach Brad Shorter said on Tuesday.
Flood could start five seniors, Shorter said, in 5-foot-6 Kayla Bartelsmeyer, 5-7 Alex Botkin, 5-10 Lindsey Carlson, 5-5 Alice Heinzler and 5-6 Sarah Kreul.
The Tigers have three talented sophomores, Shorter said, in 5-8 Micah Mansker, 5-10 Michayla Shanks and 6-1 Tori Taylor,
“Republic is really good. Its ranking is high for a reason,” Shorter said. “We need to control the boards and take care of the ball. Those areas probably are the most important. Rebounding, as always, will be huge.
“Also, Republic defensively will utilize some form of full-court pressure,” Shorter said.
Webb City likely will counter with 6-0 sophomore Desirea Buerge and juniors Kaitlin Beason (5-8), Mikaela Burgess (5-7), Casey Heger (6-2) and Megan Heman (5-7).
Asia Bemo (5-5 junior), Kenzie Cooper (5-7 junior), Lexey Kneib (5-5 freshman) and Peyton Rogers (5-6 freshman) head the Cardinal bench, Shorter said.
Lacy Resa, a 5-6 junior, has been lost for the season and shoulder surgery is planned, Shorter said.
Scoring averages include 16.8 for Burgess, 12.5 for Buerge, 12.4 for Heger, 9.1 for Beason and 3.7 for Heman.
Leading rebounders are Heger 7.5, Buerge 6.7 and Beason 5.2. Beason, Burgess and Heman are averaging 2.9, 2.6 and 2.3 assists. Burgess (2.1) and Heger (1.8) are 1-2 in steals.
Heger is shooting 49 percent overall from the field. Free throw accuracy leaders are Beason at 89 percent and Buerge at 74. Leaders from 3 are Heger (38 percent on 13 of 34), Beason (36 percent on 15 of 42) and Burgess (35 percent on 48 of 139).
Thursday’s game launches six in a row in the league for Webb City.