COLUMBIA — This wasn’t the way it was supposed to go.
The 11:45 a.m. tipoff wasn’t quite what they had hoped for. There will not be any state championship banners or a prime-time state championship game televised on Fox Sports Midwest.
But it will have to do.
The Rock Bridge boys basketball team knocked off Oakville 54-40 Saturday at Mizzou Arena to take third place in the Class 5 state championships. The win was bittersweet for the Bruins, after a 66-65 loss in the state semifinals on Friday to Chaminade. The Bruins blew a 18-point fourth quarter lead in that game.
“It’s one of the hardest things to do," Bruins senior Skylar Tolson said. "Everybody in sports hates consolation games. We showed perseverance and toughness today.”
After the collapse on Friday, the Bruins had less than 24 hours to regroup. A team dinner at sophomore Justin Miller’s house on Friday night could not take the sting off the loss earlier in the day. The mood at the dinner was somber. Jokes by the players were few and far between, with moments filled with eerie silence.
“Just thinking about that loss the whole time," senior Travis Ward said. "It’s probably going to haunt me forever.”
Despite the disappointment, the Bruins ended the season as one of the school's most successful teams. Third place is tied for the boys basketball program's highest finish.
“It takes a lot of the sting off of last night,” coach Jim Scanlon said. “I’m very proud of them.”
The Bruins led throughout most of the third-place game. Tolson led the Bruins with 22 points, and senior Jordan Dressler scored 10.
Despite controlling most of the game, the Tigers cut the Bruins' lead to six points midway through the fourth quarter. At that point, it seemed like the Bruins might have a flashback of the semifinal game. However, the Bruins were not about to let that happen again.
“It popped in my head,” Scanlon said about the possibility of another letdown. “They hung in there and won as a team.”
The Bruins lose Tolson, Ward, Dressler, and Briton Rudd to graduation, marking an end of a successful senior class. Down the road, the seniors will have many great memories to look back on.
“It’s going to take a few months to fully reflect on it," Tolson said. "It’s been the time of my life. It’s bittersweet right now because it’s over. I’m going to miss it.”
Tolson said he will attend every Bruins game he possibly can.
“I’ll still feel like part of the team next year," Tolson said. "I love these guys to death. I can’t wait to see what they can do next year."