ROLLA — After the game, they lingered on the floor with tears in their eyes. The Bruins girls basketball season had ended with a 49-39 defeat to Nixa.
Last year’s Missouri state champion, Rock Bridge ended the first quarter against Nixa leading 14-13. But Nixa used its size advantage for a grueling victory.
In the second quarter of the game, 6-foot-3 Nixa center Aly Stock found her stroke, hitting several midrange jumpers. Nixa then expanded its lead to nine at halftime, 24-15.
From there, the Eagles employed a frustrating game of ball control in the third quarter. Their possessions seemed to last hours, slowly bleeding the clock and keeping the Bruins from scoring. Rock Bridge guards desperately tried to pry the ball away from junior Nixa point guard Bethanie Funderburk, but they only ended up getting into foul trouble. The Eagles consistently sank their free throws and Rock Bridge was only able to carve pieces out of the lead, getting the game within five points a few times.
“I was trying to run clock,” Nixa coach Jim Middleton said. “This was going to be a low scoring game; an eight-point lead felt like a 15-point lead.”
Funderburk managed the clock masterfully. She scored when she needed to, ending the game with 15 points, but continued to make the right decisions at the right times.
“We just try to focus and not let them get in our heads,” she said. “All we were worried about was winning.”
Rock Bridge can take solace in the factthat they lost to a ranked team; in fact, they only lost to ranked teams this year. The Bruins ended the season 24-5, losing to Nixa (twice), Incarnate Word, St. Joseph’s Academy and Kickapoo.
“We never lost a game that we shouldn’t have lost,” Rock Bridge head coach Jill Nagel said. “There’s is a big target on your back (when you’re state champion). Team’s circle you.”
Junior guard Amaya Williams was the leading scorer for the Bruins with 15 points, but was frustrated during and after the game.
“It’s like a total one-eighty,” Williams said of the difference between this year and last year. “This was my last game playing with the seniors.”