SEDALIA — The Rock Bridge girls basketball team played its first postseason game of the season 75 miles away from its gym. But you would have guessed it was a home game sitting next to Smith-Cotton High School's court.
Rock Bridge improved its winning streak to 13 games easily on Tuesday, beating the host Tigers 59-16 in the semifinals of the Class 5, District 9 tournament in Sedalia, rooted on by a throng of fans who drove an hour and a half to cheer on the Bruins. The Rock Bridge faithful easily outnumbered their opponents’ fans.
Class 5, District 9 championship
Rock Bridge (20-3)
vs. Jefferson City (17-9)
WHEN: 6 p.m.
WHERE: Smith-Cotton High School, Sedalia
"Kudos to our cheerleaders," Rock Bridge coach Jill Nagel said. "They travel with us everywhere, unless it's a game where we stay overnight."
Even still, at times the Rock Bridge bench seemed noticeably louder than anyone else in the gym.
"I love our crowd, but I notice our bench the most," Bruins senior Carmen Boessen said. "We could be playing on an empty court with nobody there, and we would have enough energy just from the people on the bench."
The Bruins (21-3) seemed more than comfortable playing on the road, thanks to a regular season schedule that involved a lot of traveling.
"Playing away is easy because we only had five home games," Nagel said. "I think it was 3,300 miles in the regular season that we traveled. We're not going to be playing the district or any games in the playoffs in our gym, so you might as well be ready to play on somebody else's floor."
The Bruins' defense effectively slowed Smith-Cotton with eight steals, three blocks and an offense-killing half-court press. They also showed serious poise by converting buzzer-beating baskets at the end of the first half and at the end of the third quarter.
Chayla Cheadle led a well-balanced Rock Bridge attack that saw 11 Bruins score despite playing without their head coach. Nagel watched the game from the stands because she has the flu.
Rock Bridge advances to the championship game where it will face Jefferson City, which beat Hickman in the late semifinal. The Bruins are scheduled to take on the Jays at 6 p.m. Friday at Smith-Cotton.