Free throw pushes Rock Bridge into district girls basketball final

Wednesday, February 20, 2008 | 11:49 p.m. CST; updated 1:11 p.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008
Rock Bridge’s Amaya Williams cuts around two Helias players in Wednesday’s game.

COLUMBIA — The Rock Bridge girls basketball team’s postseason started in a dramatic fashion.

Trailing by one point with 7.6 seconds to go, Rock Bridge senior guard Claire Schaeperkoetter stepped up to the free-throw line to shoot a one-and-one. She made the first to tie at 41. She missed on the second attempt, but teammate Katherine Harry tipped the ball out to the perimeter into the hands of the Bruins. Schaeperkoetter received a pass and hoisted a 3-pointer that was off the mark.

She was fouled on the attempt, however, and Schaeperkoetter was awarded three free throws with 2.8 seconds left. She again made the first but missed the second two attempts.

When a Helias desperation half-court shot pounded off the backboard, Rock Bridge escaped with a 42-41 victory Wednesday in the Class 5 District 10 semifinal. The Bruins advance to play host Hickman in the championship at 7 p.m. Friday.

“We had the person we wanted on the free-throw line,” Rock Bridge coach Jill Nagel said. “That’s what seniors do. They step up and make plays at big times.”

Emotions ran high in a back-and-forth game.

“You need to be able to handle those close games,” Schaeperkoetter said. “You are playing tougher competition in districts. It is pivotal to be able to produce in crunch time.”

Nagel said her team was prepared for this game after playing “the toughest schedule in Missouri” this season. She added that Rock Bridge practices special situations for the end of the game, so the players weren’t scared.

Harry led the No. 8 Bruins with 14 points, and Schaeperkoetter scored 10. Melissa Young led Helias with a game-high 15 points.

The game was a rematch of the regular season finale for Rock Bridge, which the Bruins won 62-40 at home. They had a little more trouble Wednesday on a neutral court at Hickman.

“We have been through a lot of tough games this year,” Schaeperkoetter said. “It didn’t turn out how you draw it up, but we will take it.”

She said she hopes things go better for Rock Bridge in the district added final.

“Hickman’s a great team,” Schaeperkoetter said. “Anything short of going out there and playing our best isn’t going to cut it versus Hickman.”

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