JEFFERSON CITY — No one was going to outplay Travis Jorgenson. Not here. Not now.
The Rock Bridge point guard watched as his counterpart, Jefferson City guard Jack Young, did exactly that in the first few minutes of the Class 5 District 9 championship on Friday.
In response to a 3-pointer by Young, Jorgenson drove past him for a layup. But before Jorgenson could even turn around, Young sprinted up the court, received an outlet pass and made a layup of his own.
This was not acceptable to Jorgenson, who dwelled on the game all day after school was canceled. This was not acceptable to the player who walked into the locker room earlier that evening with such an intense look on his face that teammate Karon Hayes didn’t dare try to make small talk.
Jorgenson took the ball and went right back at Young. That he was going to shoot a 3-pointer of his own was predictable. That Young was ready for it was predictable.
That Jorgenson still made it was, well, predictable.
On Rock Bridge’s next possession, Jorgenson hit a jump shot. Then he got a steal. The sequence sent a message – no one was going to outplay him. The sophomore ended with 15 points and a slew of assists and steals. Young never scored again, ending with five points. Rock Bridge (22-4) won 71-48, advancing to sectionals against Waynesville on Wednesday in Rolla.
Earlier in the week Jorgenson looked as if he was trying too hard against Hickman. He attempted risky passes into traffic that resulted in turnovers. On fast breaks he hesitated between taking the ball to the basket himself or giving it up.
Rock Bridge coach Jim Scanlon was never worried. To him, Jorgenson’s only flaw is simply too much of a good thing.
“He’s just so competitive, he wants to win so bad,” Scanlon said. “Sometimes we tell him, ‘Calm down a little bit, you’ll be fine.’ But we wouldn’t be anywhere without him. We need to have him in there.”
Jorgenson and Young didn’t guard each other much on Friday – Young got in foul trouble and spent a lot of time on the bench – but when they did, Young brought out the best in Jorgenson. Young didn't hide his swagger, posing his follow-through and looking at the Rock Bridge student section after his early 3-pointer, and while Jorgenson only called it confidence, he played with more purpose whenever Young guarded him.
“It’s a big game,” Jorgenson said. “You’re confident and the other team is confident. You want to go out there and play hard.”
Rock Bridge had a double-digit lead before halftime, but midway through the third quarter Jefferson City pulled six points ahead, 36-30. The challenge seemed to wake up Jorgenson again, and a minute later he hit Hayes on a full court pass that ended with a layup. Jorgenson guarded Young and stole the ball as he brought it back up the court.
In the fourth quarter Rock Bridge pulled away, but the win didn’t seem official until Jorgenson intercepted a pass at the top of the key and made a layup despite an intentional-looking foul by Young.
“We lost focus for a moment,” Hayes said. “Coach told us to slow it down, and I think Travis making some big steals at the end to keep us in there.”
After the game Jorgenson's voice rasped. He had almost lost it when he let his guard down and celebrated with his teammates. Now he tried to regain his reserved demeanor, but he had to smile a little bit describing a season that began with unknown expectations.
"This one’s great," he said. "We all like each other and knew we could play. We came under radar, and now it feels really good."