COLUMBIA — On the cover of the Rock Bridge boys basketball senior night program, the seven seniors are posed in a photograph.
Four of the seniors are smiling. Forward Josh Hayes has his eyebrows raised. Guard Corey Haith's face is twisted in a funny grimace.
But Jordan Stevens looks serious. His chin is slightly upturned, and his mouth is firmly set. He looks confident, though. It's only appropriate for the team's go-to defender.
So when Stevens headed to the scorer's table to enter Friday night's game against Helias Catholic in the first quarter, it was no surprise when head coach Jim Scanlon called after him to "guard their best player."
And that's exactly what he did. Stevens stuck to Helias Catholic's Deion Hughes, holding him to zero points and only one shot attempt in the first half as the Bruins went into overtime. The Bruins beat the Crusaders 49-42.
"He's quick and long," sophomore guard Nick Norton said. "It makes it tough on shooters, and he came in and played good defense."
In a game when the Bruins struggled to make shots, scoring only 17 points in the first half, the Stevens-led defensive effort was the Bruins go-to strategy when their offense couldn't get anything going.
"We weren't hitting our shots, and when we can't do that, we have to pick up our defense and hopefully get some steals and push for easy layups," Norton said.
After routing Helias Catholic 74-38 earlier this season, the Bruins struggled to pull away from the Crusaders all game until a three-point shot by Stevens and back-t0-back steals in overtime by Norton allowed the Bruins to pull away for the victory.
"I thought Jordan Stevens' three was awfully good," Scanlon said. "He's pretty fearless. He doesn't fear much, but he knocked that down."
Stevens wasn't the only senior making stops on defense. Center Austin Ray, who will be playing football for the University of Colorado-Boulder next fall, pulled down five offensive rebounds and had two blocks to go with his eight points.
But the Bruins' energy tends to come from Stevens. He said he uses his role as the team's defender as a way to develop his skills.
"Usually in practice I'm the energizer as far as our defense goes," Stevens said. "I wanted to take the best player to challenge myself because they I know I'm trying to play college ball next year and I know it's going to be about being stronger."
The Bruins (21-4) play next in the second round of the Class 5, District 9 tournament against either Smith-Cotton High School or Washington High School at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday night at Smith-Cotton.