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Tigers ‘popped in the mouth’ by No. 1-ranked Liberty in Republic Tournament final

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REPUBLIC — Ethan Whatley felt Ozark got a feel for the COC wars that await the Tigers by matching up with Liberty in the Republic Tournament championship game Saturday.

Ozark bowed to the Bluejays, ranked No. 1 in Class 6, by a 70-62 count. The Tigers trailed by 17 points at halftime.

They came out and popped us in the mouth,” Whatley said. “We've got to be ready to be the more physical team every night. Nixa will play that physical caliber of a game and Republic is usually very physical with us, too.”

“We're not used to that level of physicality away from the ball in our offense,” Ozark coach Mark Schweitzer said. “When you're getting bumped and have a guy in your hip pocket trailing you, there's a whole domino effect and you need to be sharp. We needed to be sharper. We came out and had a little bit of the yips on layups. We missed some easy buckets.”

The Tigers were up 9-8, before Liberty broke away thanks to a 28-point second quarter. 

Ozark took some consolation in outscoring Liberty 37-28 in the second half.

“We got better in the second half,” Schweitzer said. “Away from the ball and on cuts, we had to kick it up a notch. We had to adjust.” 

Graydon Miller began to establish himself at both ends of the court. He scored eight points.

Graydon is starting to come on,”Schweitzer said. “He hasn't played much basketball. He has just played school ball, he’s never played AAU. He plays baseball all summer. So, he’s learning on the fly and he'll be fine. His defense made great strides these last two games. That's what I had been on him about. I'm not worried about his shots. They're going to fall.”

Whatley had nine of his 17 points in the fourth quarter.

You've got to be proud of our effort in the second half,” Whatley said. “We didn't keep letting them beat us down. That was big for us. This was an awesome opportunity to put ourselves on the map. If we would have played the whole game like we did in the second half, we would have competed with them.”

By no means are we a team that can't compete at this level,” Schweitzer said. “We know we can, at least we better know we can. The kids better believe we can. We'll remind them that we believe in them whole-heartedly, that we can compete against Class 6 top-echelon talent.”

Ozark (3-1) won in the semifinal round 49-45 against Park Hill South.

Friday’s Game

OZARK (49) — J. Whatley 5 1-2 11, Miller 2 0-0 5, Harmon 5 3-5 14, Ballard 1 0-2 2, E. Whatley 5 1-3 13, Easley 1 0-0 2, Wright 1 0-0 2.

PARK HILL SOUTH (45) — Dockery 4 1-1 10, Walker 1 0-0 2, Crosby 3 3-4 9, Font 5 0-1 10, Roberts 4 3-4 12, Bjorn 1 0-0 2.

Ozark                17 8 12 11 - 49

Park Hill South 19 9  8   9  - 45

3-point goals - E. Whatley 2, Harmon, Miller.

Saturday’s Game

OZARK (62) — J. Whatley 5 2-3 12, Miller 3 0-0 7, Harmon 4 2-2 13, Ballard 0 1-2 1, E. Whatley 6 3-6 17, Easley 1 0-0 2, Wright 5 0-0 10.

LIBERTY (68) — Blaine 2 0-0 5, Stintz 7 3-5 17, Stubbs 8 0-1 19, Stepp 0 0-2 0, Milbrandt 4 1-1 9, Holst 5 0-2 10, Gormant 3 2-3 8.

Ozark   8  17 16 21 - 62

Liberty 14 28 12 16 - 70

3-point goals - Stubbs 3, Harmon 3, E. Whatley 2, Miller, Blaine.

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