COLUMBIA — After three quarters of Thursday night’s Rock Bridge-Hickman boys basketball game, it wasn’t clear which team was undefeated and No. 1 in the state.
Rock Bridge led Hickman 36-32. For three quarters, Hickman had held the ball and forced Rock Bridge away from its normal fast-paced style. But then the Bruins woke up.
Rock Bridge used an 11-0 run in the first three minutes of the fourth quarter to pull away and beat rival Hickman 63-45 in a sold-out Rock Bridge gym. The Bruins, top-ranked in the Missouri Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association poll, swept the season series against Hickman and moved to 18-0.
But for much of the game, it looked like Hickman might pull an upset.
“We just finally realized we needed to kick it in here and get it going or else we might let this one slip away,” Rock Bridge junior guard Ricky Kreklow said. “We just all got together and decided to make one big push to get the big lead so we could have a cushion.”
Hickman (12-6) controlled the tempo for most of the game.
“It was kind of a chess match,” Rock Bridge coach Jim Scanlon said. “It wasn’t really how we like to play.”
But in the fourth quarter, the Bruins broke down Hickman’s defense.
“Once we got it figured out, we started working it in, getting it inside, looking for a lot of high-low passes and then finally started to pull away there,” Kreklow said.
Kreklow led Rock Bridge with 18 points, scoring the team’s first 12 of the game. But the Bruins broke the game open in the fourth quarter.
“Our bench, I thought, really turned it around," Scanlon said. "Travis Ward and Charlie Henderson kind of gave us a spark off the bench in that third or fourth quarter."
Ward and Henderson combined for nine fourth-quarter points and were crucial during the Bruins’ 11-0 run to start the fourth quarter.
The Kewpies made too many mistakes in the final period.
“We had a couple of defensive breakdowns and a couple of unforced errors and turned the ball over without any reason,” Hickman coach Kenny Ash said. “That right there, you can’t do that against a team like Rock Bridge. They’ll make you pay for it.”
Rock Bridge built a 10-point lead in the second quarter, but Hickman ended the half on a 5-0 run, making it 24-19.
Hickman fell behind again in the third quarter but erased a nine-point Rock Bridge lead to keep within four.
But Rock Bridge made 13-of-15 free throws in the fourth quarter and used its 1-2-2 press against Hickman. The game seemed out of reach for Hickman with 5:53 left to play after Henderson scored while being fouled and let out a roar in excitement.
“That fourth quarter, (in) six possessions, we just lost our head and they pulled away and that was the game,” said Hickman senior guard Eric Franklin, who led his team with 10 points.
The rivalry was alive and well Thursday night. A Hickman defender fouled Rock Bridge senior forward Jordan Dressler across the face with just over a minute to play. Instead of letting the clock unwind at the end of the game, Rock Bridge’s Justin Miller made a layup as time expired. Scanlon even said his team played too hard at times.
Kreklow wasn’t too surprised that Hickman kept the game close.
“Hickman always seems to play their best games against us,” he said.
For Rock Bridge a win against Hickman is always sweet.
“We didn’t play one of our better games, but we survived it,” Scanlon said.
Matt Schiffman contributed to this article