SEDALIA — Rock Bridge High School senior Corey Haith has seen too much of the bench this season.
Thanks to a broken third metacarpal bone in his right hand, Haith has been leaving the bench only to carry cups of water to his teammates. And except for 38 seconds of playing time in a blowout victory against Helias Catholic last Friday during the senior night game, Haith has been out of action for more than a month.
Class 5, District 9 championship
Rock Bridge (22-4)
vs. Hickman (15-10)
WHEN: 7:45 p.m.
WHERE: Smith-Cotton High School, Sedalia
As the Rock Bridge boys basketball team cruised to a 63-17 victory Wednesday against host Smith-Cotton in the semifinal of the Class 5, District 9 tournament in Sedalia, Haith, the son of Missouri men's basketball coach Frank Haith, played in the first quarter and for most of the second half in a game that was dominated by the Bruins' bench.
"Corey's been out a long time, and he's been dying to play," Rock Bridge coach Jim Scanlon said. "We're trying to get some other guys some work and get some rest for our starters."
That was the main objective in a game where Rock Bridge hardly needed starters. The Bruins' bench scored more than half of the team's points. The starters didn't even play after the three-minute mark in the third quarter.
From that point forward, the game was up to the supporting cast. All eight Rock Bridge bench players got into the game and six of them scored.
Sixth man Jordan Stevens' game-high 14 points looked effortless as he knocked down three 3-pointers in the second half.
"We didn't underestimate the team, but we knew this wasn't going to be the most challenging game," Stevens said. "So we went in and played like we usually would."
Stevens wasn't the only bench player making plays. Senior Carter Marcks contributed a quick eight points in the first half, Haith racked up three steals and senior post players Alex Henderson and Leo Terzopolous pulled down rebounds.
"It felt good to get everyone into the rotation," Stevens said. "Even little Ryan Kreklow got a little time, which was fun."
Freshman Ryan Kreklow, who was the starting point guard for the Rock Bridge junior varsity team this season, is the most recent addition to the Bruins' varsity.
With six minutes left in the fourth quarter, Kreklow entered the game to cheers from his new teammates. A few possessions after a missed 3-point attempt, he dribbled to the basket and was fouled, sending him to the free-throw line for another chance to score.
"It was cool to see him get in the game and get his first buckets on varsity," Marcks said.
Although Scanlon and the Rock Bridge coaching staff stuck around to watch Hickman High School defeat Jefferson City in the late semifinal game, none of the Rock Bridge players stayed to see who they would be playing Friday in the district final.
"We're gonna play our game regardless of who wins," Stevens said.