COLUMBIA — Although the Rock Bridge boys basketball team was one of two teams in Class 5 to end its season with a win, the team had hoped a state championship would be attached.
The Bruins bounced back from a tough loss Friday evening to defeat Oakville 54-40 on Saturday afternoon in the third-place game.
Rock Bridge (28-3) held the lead the entire game and continued to dominate without its two starting guards. With right foot injuries, junior Ricky Kreklow and sophomore Justin Miller watched the team play its season-ender from the sidelines.
Kreklow did not dress for Saturday’s game. His health had been a growing postseason concern for the Bruins after re-aggravating a right ankle bone bruise and ligament injury in Monday’s practice.
Playing in Friday night’s semifinal game led to significant inflammation and pain in his ankle. After consulting a doctor, Kreklow said the risk of breaking his foot was too high but admitted he would have tried to play had it been the state championship game.
“I hate sitting out, especially since it was the seniors’ last game,” Kreklow said. “I definitely wanted to come out with a win to go out on top.”
A second-quarter right ankle injury also forced Miller to sit. Earlier this season, Miller had reduced playing time from a twisted left ankle. Saturday, against Oakville (23-9), Miller landed awkwardly on his right foot after coming down with a rebound and did not return in the second half.
Miller said sitting for the final 18 minutes of the season was difficult.
“I was telling the trainers that I wanted to get back in, but I didn’t want to hurt my team,” Miller said. “I wanted to be in there, but if I wasn’t going to be able to do anything to benefit my team I would just be hurting them.”
Kreklow and Miller will return to Rock Bridge next season for another try at a state championship. After recovering, the players will begin offseason preparation. AAU play begins Sunday and Miller intends to play in the upcoming weeks.
“We want to get here (the state tournament) again, hopefully with a different outcome,” Kreklow said.
Rock Bridge is graduating its four seniors . Without Jordan Dressler, Skylar Tolson, Travis Ward, or Briton Rudd the team will have to find new players to step up.
“We’re losing a lot of leaders,” Kreklow said. “There will be some big shoes to fill.”
Miller responded, “I’m willing to fill those shoes.”
Although Rock Bridge did not clinch a state title this year, the players said this season still reflected tremendous success. The team's losses were by a combined four points.
“A couple possessions here and there make the difference between 31-0 and 28-3, but looking back it was still a great year," Kreklow said.