COLUMBIA — Thursday night was supposed to be about the seniors, but someone forgot to tell Lindsey Cunningham.
The Rock Bridge junior girls basketball player was all over the floor, causing disruption everywhere she went and often finding herself face down on the green and yellow Rock Bridge court. Her body may not like her, but Cunningham’s coach certainly appreciated the effort.
Rock Bridge 69
Jefferson City 40
“She all-out dove, just to get a fingernail on the ball,” Bruins coach Jill Nagel said. “Those things don’t show up in the box score, but they can really get your team going.”
Cunningham continuously got to the basket at will, notching easy layups and finding open teammates. She finished with 19 points — 15 coming in a decisive first half as Rock Bridge (18-5) defeated Jefferson City 69-40.
Senior teammate Allison Marshall wasn’t at all surprised by Cunningham’s performance.
“Lindsey is a great team player, great team leader,” Marshall said. “I didn’t expect anything less. She had a great game, and she’s had a ton of great games this season.”
Cunningham’s disregard for her body seemed to spark a fire in her teammates — it was as if each player wanted to one-up the other in effort.
“If you see your point guard diving on the floor for a loose ball, you’re really going to play harder yourself,” Nagel explained.
That effort completely disrupted Jefferson City’s offense. The Bruins got off to a quick start, forcing two turnovers on the first two possessions. In one sequence near the end of the first quarter, Cunningham stole the ball off the inbound pass and scored a quick two points. On Jefferson City's next inbound, Cunningham looked as if she was heading down the court when, suddenly, she snapped back around and stole the ball again.
It was the kind of play Nagel has come to expect from her players.
“It was just business as usual,” she said.
Nagel was also very intense, her shoes constantly slamming against the ground as she tried to rouse her players.
“It was just to get their attention,” she said, laughing. “I didn’t even know I was doing it.”
Nagel and her players had extra motivation for the game, as senior night festivities preceded the last home game for four senior Bruins. Megan Marshall, Allison Marshall, Taylor Payne and Emily Holt all waved to the crowd as they exited the gym for the last time.
Allison Marshall said she was happy she and her fellow seniors could go out with a win.
“I just told the girls, walking out of the locker room, it’s very bittersweet, and I’m really happy that we had such a great game,” Allison Marshall said. “I’m just really sad walking out of the locker room.”
Cunningham felt the extra motivation in a different way.
“I definitely wanted to do everything I could to send them out on a win,” Cunningham said. “They definitely deserve it. This also being a rivalry game we just used that to our advantage, like an adrenaline rush to get us going.”