Rock Bridge boys basketball aims to toughen up defense in state tournament

Tuesday, February 28, 2012 | 9:19 p.m. CST

COLUMBIA — Despite a relatively uncontested run to the district title, the Rock Bridge boys basketball team is still sticking to coach Jim Scanlon's season-long philosophy of getting better.

But this time around, that message has a much clearer objective. 

"Defense the rest of the way," assistant head coach Quentin Mitchell said. "Defense, defense, defense, and rebound. If we do that, we've got a shot."

During last week's Class 5, District 9 Tournament, Rock Bridge had little trouble with the competition, winning both its games by at least 20 points on the way to the title. 

Although the Bruins clicked offensively in those games, Scanlon said the team's defense was to thank for the dominant victory in the title game against Hickman. The Bruins held Hickman freshman standout Jimmy Whitt, who scored 17 points in the district semifinals, to only five points in the championship game, all of which came in the second half.

"Our defense exemplified how the game went," Scanlon said. "When you hit shots and play good defense, it makes it a little easier on you. When we play defense, we can be a pretty good ball team." 

Heading into Wednesday night's state tournament opener, the Bruins (23-4), are on a six-game winning streak. They will face Rolla (19-9), which won the District 10 title, edging Waynesville 40-38.

In last year's state tournament, the Bruins made it to the final four before Troy Buchanan beat them in the semifinals. Rock Bridge finished fourth in the state after losing the third-place game to Lee's Summit North.

The Bruins head into this year's state tournament with memories of last season fresh in their minds. Sophomore point guard Nick Norton is well aware that his team has some big games ahead of them. Ever since Rock Bridge struggled in an overtime victory against Helias Catholic at the end of the regular season, he has had one goal.

"Just have great confidence and don't give up," Norton said. "Never give up, and we're gonna get that state championship. That's what we want to do." 

Rock Bridge plays Rolla High at 7:45 p.m. Wednesday at the Gale Bullman Building at the Missouri University of Science and Technology in Rolla.

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