COLUMBIA — This year, the Rock Bridge girls basketball team is hoping for a different outcome.
This time last season, the 2011 Bruins, the top seed in their district tournament, had beaten Smith-Cotton to advance to the district tournament final against Jefferson City, which upset them 34-33.
Rock Bridge (22-4)
vs. Jefferson City (15-10)
WHEN: 6 p.m.
WHERE: Smith-Cotton High School, Sedalia
Friday night, the 2012 Bruins, again the top seed in the Class 5, District 9 tournament with a win over Smith-Cotton in the semifinals, will face Jefferson City in a rematch for the championship.
Most of the Bruins' roster is the same, but with the addition of freshman Sophie Cunningham, who has been waiting three years to play with her older sister senior Lindsey Cunningham. The Bruins say they feel this year will be different.
“We kind of had an idea that this was the year to do stuff,” Sophie Cunningham said. “We’re hopefully still not done. We want to get it done this year because this is the year.”
But with last year’s finals in their mind, the goal for this season became clear from the start.
“Our main focus was really winning districts and moving on from there,” Sophie Cunningham said Thursday. “So one of our main goals is coming up tomorrow night and I know that we’re all very pumped for that.”
“... it even means that much more this time," Lindsey Cunningham added, "I think just because those of us that played last year were so disappointed.”
With a 22-4 record, the Bruins are the favorite to win, but Sophie Cunningham knows that in the postseason, anything can happen.
“They’re just as tough this year,” Sophie said about Jefferson City. “It could go either way, but I know we’re all pumped, and I bet they are too, but I think there’s an edge to us this year.”
There are three sets of sisters on the Bruins, something Lindsey Cunningham says she thinks will make the difference this year.
“It really is our team chemistry,” Lindsey Cunningham said. “Today in practice we were joking. Sophie made a shot, and I said, ‘that’s my sister,’ and someone else made a shot, and I was like ‘that’s also my sister.’ We really do play like sisters and playing together has just come naturally.”
This season, The Bruins have faced a lot of pressure to win districts, and there has been talk about winning a state title this year. So they have been trying to block out as many distractions as they can.
“I think the biggest part was the talk about us,” Lindsey Cunningham said. “We went to Mizzou team camp, KU team camp and Iowa State team camp, and every single team we played, every single college coach we saw, was like ‘if you don’t win state something’s wrong.’
"It wasn’t something that we could get out of our head. But then there’s so many different blogs and different things like that that we just have to block out. Just because in the postseason, crazy things happen. So I think we believe we can go as far as we want to, but we just have to make sure we stay focused.”
During the regular season, the Bruins beat the Jays 72-51 on Feb. 9 in Jefferson City. The Class 5, District 9 title game is set for 6 p.m. Friday at Smith-Cotton High School in Sedalia.