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Lady Eagles' missed opportunities late costly in NIT semifinal loss to Republic


With Nixa center Laila Grant emerging from the Lady Eagles’ locker room Friday distraught and down on herself, guard Lily Mahy quickly consoled her.

Mahy assured Grant no one was playing the blame game after Nixa let a seven-point, fourth quarter lead slip away and fell 55-53 to Republic in an NIT semifinal.

The Lady Eagles lost not simply because of one missed shot or one failed offensive possession. Rather, there were many of both down the stretch.

Over the final five minutes, Nixa was 1-of-8 shooting from the field and committed three turnovers. 

In the final seconds, Grant missed a jumper in the paint that would have put the Lady Eagles up and Mahy missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer that would have been a game-winner.

“Throughout a game, there are so many opportunities to mess up. If yours comes late in the game, that sucks,” Mahy said. “But we all messed up. It’s not just on (Grant) for missing that shot. We all missed (shots) during the game and as a team our defense was not there, especially in the first half.”

The teams traded leads over the first half, before Nixa began to take control late in the third quarter. The Lady Eagles even showed signs of being able to gain separation while jumping ahead 49-42 with 5:40 remaining.

But by the 3:10 mark, the Nixa lead was gone. Republic reeled off eight straight points to go up 50-49.

Mahy answered with a 3 to give the Lady Eagles a 52-50 lead.

The 3 was Nixa’s lone field goal over the final five minutes. The Lady Eagles’ only other point during that stretch came on a Taylor Wood free throw.

For the most part, Nixa took the kind of shots it wanted to take with the game on the line.

“Some of our outside shots and our layups that were crucial didn’t fall,” forward Brooke Teter said, “(Shots) are not going to fall every game. When shots aren’t falling, we need to figure it out.”

Nixa surely didn’t get to the free-throw line as much as it would have liked. The Lady Eagles were 5-of-7 on their free throws while whistled for 16 fouls and Republic was 10-of-17 shooting freebies and committed 14 fouls.

A wild sequence that dictated plenty began with Wood picking off a Republic pass at the top of Nixa’s half-court defense with :40 remaining and Nixa up 53-52. But the Lady Tigers’ Alaina Norman, as she ran by Wood, took a swipe at the ball and tipped it out of Wood’s hands and directly to teammate Misora Nambora.

Nambora had a clear path to the bucket and was fouled from behind by Wood while shooting a layup. Nambora made both of her free throws to give Republic a 54-53 lead with :36 left.

“It goes to show you that sometimes it’s just not your night,” Mahy said about the ball bouncing to Nambora. “Tonight wasn’t our night.”

Nambora finished with a game-high 21 points and Molly Blades added 17 for Republic (10-4).

Nambora’s winning effort also saw her display uncanny poise while repeatedly dribbling through the Lady Eagles’ full-court pressure. 

Mahy gave credit to her counterpart.

"It’s important to stay calm and give your team the same energy no matter the ups and downs and she does a very good job of that,” Mahy said. “It’s good competition every time I play her and I’ve played against her since the seventh grade. She’s always been the one to guard me. She’s faced me for six years. So, we know each other’s tendencies.”

Teter topped Nixa (11-4) with 16 points, while Wood netted 10 and Mahy had nine.

Nixa’s seniors will complete their careers without an NIT championship. The Lady Eagles last won their own tournament in 2019. 

“It’s a team loss,” Teter said. “But this game doesn’t define us. We need to come back and prove ourselves.”

“Some losses hit harder than others and we really wanted this one because we wanted to win the championship on our home floor,” Mahy said. “We’re going to learn from it no matter what.”

Nixa coach Jenny Talbert will go against her former Fair Grove players in the third-place game today at 2 p.m. Fair Grove fell to Marshfield 56-49 in Friday’s other semifinal.