COLUMBIA — If you blinked, you would have missed it.
The Rock Bridge boys basketball team never stopped moving in its 77-69 win against Nixa High School on Friday night at Columbia College. Their pace was relentless. Their strategy was uncomplicated.
Between the whistles, everything the Bruins (2-0) did was done quickly and frantically. The pace was evident wherever you looked.
Travis Jorgenson’s eyes never stopped moving. The junior guard constantly surveyed the court, finding open cutters and big men, leading to easy baskets. Jorgenson finished the game with eight assists to go along with a team-high 23 points. It appeared that he knew not only where his teammates were but also where they were going to be.
This wasn’t a trick. Jorgenson isn’t a psychic. It’s a product of endless hours of time spent together on the hardwood.
“I’ve played with a lot of these guys for a couple years in high school and on some AAU teams, so we’re pretty comfortable,” Jorgenson said. “We’ve got good chemistry, and we like each other a lot, so that helps.”
The Bruins’ legs never stopped moving, either.
The teams ran relentlessly, only halting temporarily for whistles, injuries or timeouts. While Rock Bridge wasn’t accustomed to the lightning fast tempo, conditioning in practice has prepared them to compete in a track meet as well as a basketball game.
Sophomore guard Nick Norton admitted he was tired, but that didn’t stop him from running or shooting. He finished with 12 points, including three 3-pointers.
“I didn’t really think about the fatigue. I just knew we had to get through the game,” Norton said.
Even when Nixa (0-1) went on a 20-5 run at the start of the second quarter to gain a 37-34 lead, the mouths on Rock Bridge’s bench never stopped moving.
Senior forward Austin Ray’s enthusiasm was constant. During the rough stretch, Ray yelled, “Our game! Our game!” over and over.
When the result was still in doubt in the fourth quarter, Ray didn’t seem worried. He smiled and encouraged his team during a timeout, chanting, “We gonna win, baby. We gonna win!”
Even Rock Bridge coach Jim Scanlon was in constant motion throughout the game. He paced frantically up and down the team’s bench, yelling instructions to his players on the court and motioning to his bench for substitutions.
Whether he was warning senior forward Will Echelmeier to stay in front of his man on defense or chiding his guards for passing to Ray, who is a below-average ball handler in the open court, Scanlon kept busy.
All that movement — Jorgenson’s eyes, the team’s legs, the bench’s mouths and Scanlon’s pacing — was enough to overwhelm Nixa.
The Bruins, who play next week in the Troy People’s Bank tournament at Troy Buchanon High School, will attempt to maintain that same enthusiasm going forward.
And while Scanlon is satisfied with his team’s victory, he knows this is only the beginning.
“We’re a work in progress,” Scanlon said. "They’re good, and it was a good win for our guys." He hesitated long enough to laugh loudly, thinking briefly about the long road ahead.
“But we still have work to do,” he said.