COLUMBIA — The postseason has been one long road trip for the Rock Bridge boys basketball team.
The Bruins started it off routing the Smith-Cotton Tigers 63-17 in the District 9 semifinals at Smith-Cotton. After cruising past Hickman High School in the district championship, the Bruins silenced a crowd in Rolla as they knocked off the home team Bulldogs in the state sectional game at Missouri S&T.
But the Bruins still have one more away game to win before they can return to Columbia for the Show-Me Showdown Final Four at Mizzou Arena.
They face essentially the same road game situation in the quarterfinal game on Saturday against No. 1-ranked Nixa High School.
Nixa is a mere 12 miles from the Hammons Student Center in Springfield where the game will be held, compared to the 165-mile bus ride Rock Bridge will take to the game.
But location hasn't bothered the Bruins. When the Rolla Bulldogs ran onto the court Wednesday night to a roaring hometown crowd, Rock Bridge senior guard Corey Haith clapped along jokingly with the crowd. Junior guard Travis Jorgenson started laughing. Even the ever-serious senior Jordan Stevens couldn't help but smile at the outbreak of enthusiasm.
"At this point in the season, you can't really make excuses," assistant coach Quentin Mitchell said. "If you're gonna win, you're gonna win. We have to play in Springfield Saturday against a Springfield team. You just gotta want it. Whoever wants it more now wins, no matter where you play."
Jorgenson, who struggled in the first half of the sectional game against Rolla before scoring eight second-half points, said the crowd wasn't the reason for the team's slow first half.
"It didn't play that big of an effect," Jorgenson said. "It is a disadvantage, but you just gotta play through it."
Heading into Saturday's game, the Bruins are looking to beat the Eagles for the second time this season. Rock Bridge handed Nixa its only loss of the regular season on Dec. 2.
Stevens, whose 11 second-half points and tough defense sparked the Bruins' dominant second half against the Eagles, said the Bruins have a simple strategy for round two against Nixa.
"You always want to keep the same strategy you won with for the second time," Stevens said. "They have a couple All-State players, so we need to contain them because they lead their team. If we contain them, we contain everybody else."
Although Nixa is the No. 1 team in the state, this win is nothing more for Rock Bridge than another tally mark toward the goal behind the team's postseason slogan — "27."
"That's been the goal the whole season," Jorgenson said. "To win a state championship, and we knew coming into the playoffs that 27 wins is what gets it."
Senior forward Josh Hayes, who was the only Bruin to score besides Norton in the first half of the game against Rolla, finished with 16 points in the win. He said the new slogan, and the three more wins necessary to reach it, are all the team is focused on.
"It just gets us hyped every time because we're looking for that state championship, and 27 wins is what gets it," Hayes said. "We don't look forward to any more losses."
Rock Bridge faces Nixa in the quarterfinals at 1:45 p.m. Saturday at the Hammons Student Center in Springfield.