“…No Moment That Was Too Big…”
In 1994, the two best girls basketball teams in southwest Missouri squared off in one of the best games the area has ever seen. Top-ranked Republic and #2 Marshfield played in front of a crowd so big that fans were shuffled into the nearby cafeteria to watch the game on a TV screen. On the court, Cindy Wise took charge.
“It was probably the closest thing to a college atmosphere that I’ve ever been involved in,” remembers former Lady Tigers coach Dave McQuerter. “We came from 10 points down and won the game. It was one of Cindy’s best games. She was a big-time talent. There was no moment that was too big for her.”
“I think we came harder at them,” Wise says of Marshfield. “That’s what we wanted to do–beat them out.”
For McQuerter, who had previously coached at Greenfield, it was apparent from the moment he entered the gym in Republic that Wise was special.
“When I started my first year of coaching at Republic, she was a junior. We took them to team camp and she was instantly the one who stood out as an outstanding player. I came from a 1A program. You walk in and you’ve got Cindy Wise on the floor. She was just a much better than any player I’d ever coached before.”
Wise played for the first two Republic teams to beat out perennial power Marshfield and reach the Final Four. The first time was in 1993, when the Lady Tigers went on to suffer a two-point loss to Raymore-Peculiar in the championship game. The second was in ’94, when the Lady Tigers beat Chillicothe to win Republic’s first-ever girls state championship.
“She was always the go-to girl,” says teammate Glenna Lander. “She wasn’t afraid to take it to the hole. She wasn’t selfish with the ball. She could dribble, she could pass, she could shoot. She was mentally and physically tough.”
During their championship year, Republic went 31-1 but played several close games. McQuerter says that’s when Wise shined.
“The thing I remember most about Cindy was she was a game-changer. In the course of a season, you always have games where the players are off their games. You might be behind at halftime, but Cindy would be the spark. She would get a steal or do some great defensive play and the whole game would turn around.”
Wise remembers the feeling of advancing to the Final Four for the first time.
“I remember the win at SMS. Anytime you win something like that, it’s just a joy and an accomplishment,” she says. Losing in the final minute of the ’93 championship game simply served as motivation for her and her teammates.
“I think it was just coming back and knowing what we had to do and working harder. And we did do that.”
Wise’s accomplishments on the basketball court would be enough to place her among the best Lady Tigers ever. She earned 1st team all-state basketball honors in both 1993 and 1994. But there’s more.
“She’s probably the best player I ever coached,” says longtime Republic softball coach Mike Thorne. “She was just so athletic, so quick. She’d hit the ball and you’d look up and she was already rounding first, heading to second.”
Wise was a 1st team all-state catcher in 1993. She hit .592 that season–a school record that stood for nearly 20 years. She earned the recognition despite the fact that she hadn’t been a catcher until she got to high school.
“I’d never been a catcher. I remember going to the field. Coach was like, “Wise, get the gear on,” and I said, ‘Gear? What gear?’ She thought I was being a smart-aleck so I had to run.
“As soon as I was done running, I put the gear on. From there on out, I was always a catcher.”
Wise says she ended up loving the position.
“There was never a dull moment. You always have something to do. You’ve always got to be ready. Sometimes when you’re in the field, it gets boring if there’s no hits. But I was always doing something.”
Thorne was also a basketball assistant coach at the time.
“(She) makes your job as a coach a heck of a lot easier. It was the same way in basketball. She’d just steal the ball and go down and shoot a layup,” he says. “She was just so talented, she could have done anything.”
As much as her talent, Lander remembers Wise’s contributions as a good teammate and friend who led by example.
“There was such good chemistry between all of us,” Lander says of the Lady Tigers. “We were all good friends. She was just a good friend to everybody. I think that’s why we were successful. We got along with every single person on the team and she was our leader, so it all goes back to her. She made it all possible.”
- All-State Basketball (1993, 1994)
- All-State Softball (1993)
- Played on the 1993 basketball state runner-up and 1994 state championship team.
- Holds the school record for steals in a game (13 in 1994), in a season (135 in 1993), and in a career (331)
- Holds the school record for softball runs in a game (5 vs. Bolivar in 1993)