REPUBLIC — Ozark guard Kyle Flavin wasn't surprised to see his Yanders Law teammate, Republic hotshot Drew McMillin, get rolling from the get-go Tuesday.
McMillin scored 10 points in the first quarter en route to a 25-point night that propelled him into Republic's 1,000-point club and helped send Ozark to a 63-56 defeat.
The loss ended Ozark's hopes of working toward a share of the COC championship. Coach Mark Schweitzer's bunch will enter its regular-season finale at Webb City on Thursday with a 16-9 overall record and a 6-2 mark in conference play.
"We let Drew get some open looks and he was dialed in and knocking them down," Flavin said. "He moves well off of screens and he knows how to get open. When someone is that good of a shooter, that can't happen. You can't let him get that hot."
Republic (19-7 and 6-2) all but put the game away in the first half. The hosts poured in 25 points in the second quarter alone and were up 39-20 at halftime.
"Our second quarter was just abysmal," Schweitzer said.
The tempo in the first half couldn't have been more to Republic's liking. Ozark was content to sit back defensively, applying little, if any, ball-pressure on the perimeter. Offensively, the visitors settled into a half-court affair.
Center AJ Elliott scored 12 of his 18 points in the first half. But that was about the lone positive, as Ozark got blown out.
Republic has won three straight against Ozark.
"We didn't push the ball very well in the first half," Schweitzer said. "We didn't have a rim-runner to put pressure on the defense early."
"We didn't play very well," guard Ethan Whatley said. "We've got to pick it up. That's all there is to it."
Ozark's failures to push the tempo in the first half became more glaring in the second half. With Whatley scoring 10 of his 14 points in the second half and Flavin adding nine, Ozark played with more energy, made it a full-court contest and outscored Republic 36-24 over the final 16 minutes.
"Our kids competed. I'm proud of their second-half effort," Schweitzer said. "We're a good team and know we're a good team. But we didn't bring our best effort tonight. Republic is s good team. If you don't play four quarters against a good team, you're going to get beat on the road."
Ozark, perhaps the deepest team in southwest Missouri, had success applying full-court pressure in the fourth quarter. Republic unraveled a bit, but never completely. The closest Ozark got was seven points.
Generally, guards are competent enough at the Class 5 level that full-court pressure for 32 minutes won't work. Schweitzer wasn't second-guessing himself if he should have called for the press sooner.
"You have to pick and choose your spots to apply pressure," Schweitzer said. "Their guards are really good and smart. Race Looney is an all-conference caliber guard (and became Republic's career leader for assists Tuesday) and McMillin is obviously an all-conference caliber guard. And, their freshman (Ahlante Askew) was going by us for layups. When I'm seeing stuff like that, it doesn't make me want to press."
Schweitzer briefly went with a lineup in the second half featuring both of his top shooters in Whatley and Flavin. Most often, they sub for each other.
"I like to think of it as a spacing option," Whatley said. "We space the floor out when we're in there, meaning everybody else is going to get open. We can get back-door cuts and layups because they have to respect me and Kyle."
Cannon Cox received his first varsity start for Ozark. He knocked down a pair of 3-pointers in the fourth quarter.
"Cannon had some good minutes at Carl Junction (last week)," Schweitzer said. "We gave him a chance to jump in and help."
A schedule in which Ozark played or will play Joplin, Republic and Webb City all on the road didn't make it easy for Schweitzer's team to make a run at the COC title.
"It's been a tough slate," Whatley said. "But we wanted that. Hopefully, it prepares us for Districts."
"That's just the way it worked out," Schweitzer said. "They'll re-do the schedule and I think it's due to re-up next year. They'll change things around a little bit."
Republic 63, Ozark 56
OZARK (56) — Cline 1 0-0 2, Skaggs 1 0-0 2, Brockman 0 1-2 1, Harmon 2 0-1 4, Flavin 3 0-0 9, Whatley 6 0-0 14, Cox 2 0-0 6, Elliott 6 4-8 18. Totals 21 5-11 56.
REPUBLIC (63) — Looney 6 2-2 14, McMillin 9 5-6 25, Rexroat 5 1-1 11, Perry 0 1-4 1, Neff 1 0-0 2, Woolford 1 0-0 2, Askew 2 4-5 8. Totals 24 13-18 63.
Ozark 10 10 20 16 - 56
Republic 14 25 12 12 - 63
3-point goals - Flavin 3, Whatley 2, Elliott 2, Cox 2, McMillin 2.