COLUMBIA — Rock Bridge senior forward Matt Kelly made sure his team's season didn't end Wednesday night.
Kelly scored two goals and added an assist in his team's 3-1 win over rival Hickman in the Class 3, District 9 championship game at Rock Bridge High School.
The Bruins (25-3) will advance to sectionals and will host Rolla (19-8) at 6 p.m. Tuesday. Rock Bridge won the team's regular season meeting 2-1 at Rolla.
After 37 scoreless minutes, Kelly broke the deadlock with an individual run that culminated in a 1-0 Bruins' lead.
Rock Bridge coach Kyle Austin said the goal was a big lift going into halftime.
"It bolstered our spirits because I think we felt like we had been really close on a couple of chances and hadn't quite got there," Austin said. "So for us to finally get one in and have something to show for our efforts was huge."
Hickman coach Adam Taylor said he wasn't too worried after Rock Bridge scored its first goal.
"I told them we can't take that goal off the scoreboard," Taylor said. "The only thing we can do is add one to it to make it even."
Less than five minutes into the second half junior Scott Whitehill scored off a low cross to tie the game 1-1 for Hickman (11-15).
Despite the goal, Austin said he wasn't worried and knew his team would be able to respond.
"I just felt like the way our kids had been playing and the chances we'd had, I felt like at that point in time we were controlling the game," Austin said. "I felt really calm and comfortable."
Kelly made sure his coach stayed that way.
As he did on his first goal, Kelly made a diagonal run into the box to once again give Rock Bridge a one-goal lead.
Taylor said he felt Kelly's second goal was the biggest of the game.
"When we let the second one up it was kind of like, 'Oh, we got to do it again,'" Taylor said. "And against the number one team in the state you are not going to be able to crawl out every time."
With 21 minutes left, Kelly assisted on junior Ryan Stanowski's goal that made the score 3-1 and helped put the game out of reach.
Kelly credited the entire team with the response after Whitehill's goal.
"It wasn't one single player," Kelly said. "It was just a whole team uniting as one and fighting back."
"We kind of picked it up as a team and started to possess and started to go forward as a team, which led to the two goals," Kelly said.
Austin said he was not at all surprised by Kelly's performance.
"I think he lives for the big moment," Austin said. "I think he showed up in a big way today, and I think he kind of picked the team up on his shoulders at times and carried our attack, and unfortunately for Hickman, he was on tonight."