COLUMBIA — It's the point in the season where the pressure is on for the Rock Bridge girls basketball team. But entering Wednesday's Class 5 state playoff game against rival Jefferson City, the Bruins have found a way to stay relaxed.
Rock Bridge senior Orreshia Chatman knows the balance between focus and fun, a valuable asset according to her coach.
“She is good for a laugh when we need it,” Rock Bridge coach Jill Nagel said. “She knows when to be serious but has a good balance of bringing humor to lighter situations.”
During practice, Chatman is the one spitting water out of her mouth at teammates during water breaks. After running drills when everyone is tired, Chatman cracks a joke that leaves her teammates, already struggling to catch their breath, gasping harder for air.
“Keeping the laughter going is good,” Chatman said. “It’s important to keep the team’s spirit up and the laughter going. We have to remember we’re playing basketball because we like it. We want to win, but we also want to enjoy it.”
Chatman said she hopes her lighthearted jokes will remind the Bruins (23-4) why they are playing and will rejuvenate them for their 6 p.m. game against the Jays (10-10) at Union High School.
“Having fun brings the team some kind of motivation,” Chatman said. “We can all be serious in practice, but when we joke around, we get to know each other and it makes it harder to let your team down. It’s a bonus that we are friends off the court, and it shows in the way we play.”
Chatman has played basketball for the Bruins for three years and is usually the first one off the bench this season. Chatman said she enjoys the thrill of basketball's mental side — knowing whom to pass to and when and where the defenders will be. She said she loves anticipating what is next and thinking about game situations. Over the course of her high school career, Nagel said she has become more confident.
“She is a much smarter player,” Nagel said. “We rely on her to bring the ball up on offense, and on defense, she harasses the other team. Mentally she is strong and she really understands how offense and defense work. She’s a good on-ball defender.”
The Bruins hosted the Jays on Jan. 19 and won 39-34.
“This is a rivalry game,” Nagel said. “It’s either win or go home, and we’re both going to show up ready to play.