COLUMBIA — Friday night, Travis Jorgenson returned to Rock Bridge's starting lineup and its home court for the first time in more than a month. Playing with a wrapped thumb, he led the Bruins in scoring with 15 points.
But the night belonged to Earl Peterson.
The Raytown South senior finished the game with 31 points, including a 14-point burst in the third quarter that led the Cardinals to a 56-51 win over the Bruins.
The lanky, six-foot-three Peterson made an impressive array of layups and jump shots during his third-quarter spree, including an alley-oop on a fast break that both shocked and hushed the Rock Bridge crowd.
"I was just feeling it," Peterson said. "I felt like I had to be the leader on the team and come in and get buckets and lead the team to victory, so that's what I had to do. That's what I did."
After trailing for the majority of the game, the Bruins managed to tie it at 41 midway through the fourth quarter.
But on the next possession, Peterson made a step-back jump shot from 17 feet out on the left wing, and the Cardinals maintained the lead for the rest of the game.
The Bruins failed to capitalize on several chances late in the game, including two consecutive missed 3-point attempts that would have given the team the lead.
As Rock Bridged trailed by three with about 30 seconds left, Jorgenson was dribbling in place, unguarded, when he was called for a double-dribble that would prove to be the most controversial and critical call of the game. The violation gave the Cardinals the ball back, forcing the Bruins to foul to stop the clock.
Regaining the upper hand, the Cardinals held on at the line and made two free throws to seal the victory.
After starting the season 15-2, the Bruins have lost two of their last four games. Senior guard Jordan Stevens said the team struggled to rebound and stop Raytown South's strongest players.
"We weren't boxing out, and we let them get second chances," Stevens said. "On our end we weren't getting any second chances, which kind of hurt us, too, because it gave them more opportunities."
Sophomore point guard Nick Norton said the team had issues with its chemistry.
"We didn't play together as a team," Norton said. "We didn't box out like we worked on all week and just came up short and didn't work as a team to get over the hump."
Looking forward, assistant coach Quentin Mitchell said the Bruins need to focus on getting back in sync, especially with Jorgenson back in the line-up after sitting out with a chipped bone and torn ligament in his thumb.
Norton, who finished with eight points, including back-to-back 3-pointers, agreed with Mitchell. He said he has high expectations for the team if they can get things ironed out.
"Starting practice Monday we just have to get everything worked out with the team and start playing together more," Norton said. "If we can do that, we can go a long way."
Even with the loss, Mitchell, holding his daughter's forgotten teddy bear and smiling, kept a positive outlook for the remainder of the season.
"When we move the ball well and we take good shots and we defend, I think we're one of the best teams in the state, if not the best," Mitchell said.
The Bruins play next on the road against Lincoln College Preparatory Academy at 7 p.m. Tuesday in Kansas City.