COLUMBIA — As the final seconds ticked off the clock, Rock Bridge players and fans alike erupted into a state of euphoria. A sea of green and yellow stormed the court in after senior guard and captain Claire Schaeperkoetter hoisted the district championship trophy into the air. The No. 2 seed Bruins (22-6) had just defeated their cross-town rival, No. 1 seed in the district and the home-standing Hickman Kewpies(21-7) in the Class 5, District 10 championship game, 52-50.
“It’s the best feeling ever,” senior Kelsie Shearrer said. “Especially beating Hickman, it felt really good.”
“It’s indescribable,” junior forward Katherine Harry said. “We haven’t won a district championship in 26 years. We were playing with all kinds of emotion out there.”
Down two entering the fourth quarter, Rock Bridge turned up the intensity. With 3:39 left in the game, a mad scramble for a loose ball near half-court ended with three Bruins sprawled on the floor and sophomore guard Amaya Williams with the ball in her hands. “One of our keys to the game was hustle plays,” coach Jill Nagel said. “We knew we needed to make the hustle plays and we got them tonight.”
Hickman’s senior Yvonne Anderson led all scorers with 43 points, including all 22 of her team’s points in the first half.
Williams led Rock Bridge with 17 points, including two free throws with under a minute left in the game that pushed the Bruins’ lead to five points. Nagel said she credits Williams for playing above her sophomore status and that she is not afraid to take the ball to the basket.
The Bruins were clutch at the free throw line, hitting six in the final minute. Ahead by two with 20.8 seconds to go in the game, Harry stepped to the stripe with a chance to put the game out of reach. She sank them both. “I just knew I wasn’t going to let my team down,” Harry said. “Our team has worked too hard for this.”
Nagel was happy with how the team played defense, especially shutting down Anderson’s teammates. “One player can’t beat a team. We had to take away her supporting cast and we did that,” Nagel said.
“We all know she (Anderson) is a great player,” Harry said. “She really stepped up to the challenge tonight and showed she is one of the best in the state. One person is not going to beat us though. It shows how good of a team we are.”
The Bruins didn’t care that Anderson put up that many points. They had just won a district title.
“It was our turn,” Harry said. “It was amazing. We took it to them. To have the crowd behind us was great. It is unforgettable.”
“I’m just glad that it’s not over and that we get to keep going,” Shearrer said.
Rock Bridge will try to continue its run on Wednesday at 6 p.m. when they play in sectionals at Union High School against a yet-to-be-known opponent.