COLUMBIA — The last time Rock Bridge participated in the MFA Oil Break Time Shootout, former Missouri Tiger Ricky Kreklow led the Bruins to victory. That was in 2010. Sunday evening at Mizzou Arena, it was Ricky’s younger brother, Ryan Kreklow, pacing the Bruins to victory.
The sophomore guard put on a show in the gymnasium his older brother once called home, sinking four three-point attempts as part of a 14-point outburst in the first half as the Bruins beat Washington 76-51.
Kreklow displayed a soft touch from beyond the arc that was reminiscent of his older brother, as fluid ball movement from the Bruins busted the Blue Jays’ 2-3 zone; leaving the 6-foot-1 sophomore with open looks along the wing and in the corner.
Kreklow gloated after two of his four treys with celebratory hand gestures in the direction of the subdued Washington student section. The Blue Jay student section basked in a chance to chant ‘airball’ after Kreklow misfired from the corner halfway through the fourth quarter. However, the Bruins got the last laugh, as coach Jim Scanlon was able to empty his bench with the outcome in-hand in the game’s waning minutes.
After the game Scanlon said there were wrinkles in the game plan to find Kreklow in open space for catch-and-shoot opportunities. Kreklow took advantage of the opportunities.
Kreklow had been struggling recently, and Scanlon attributed his success on Sunday to his improved focus during the team's past three days of practice.
“That was the Ryan we need and the Ryan I saw earlier (this season),” Scanlon said.
Helping create Kreklow’s open looks from deep was junior guard Nick Norton. The Bruins’ smallest player turned in a big performance on Norm Stewart Court, beating defenders with his quickness off the dribble and dazzled with outlet passes to teammates while driving to the basket.
Norton was named game’s Most Valuable Player after posting a double-double with 19 points and 10 assists on 8-of-12 shooting in just 20 minutes of action.
“He was outstanding,” Scanlon said.
Taking the court for the first time since their triple-overtime defeat Tuesday night against crosstown rival Hickman, the Bruins were anxious to move on from the heart-breaking shortcoming.
“You kind of want to get the venom out of your system and that’s with any loss,” Scanlon said. “You lose a game, you want to win one. I feel a lot better now.”
Scanlon highlighted the way his squad crashed the glass for offensive rebounds, had an attacking mindset on offense and its effort on defense as areas most improved from the team’s most recent games.
“We deserve a game like that because we’ve had some battles inside with good teams,” Scanlon said.
Washington’s lone lead of the contest came off the opening tip, as the Blue Jays struck first to make it 2-0. Rock Bridge followed suit with a 9-2 run and would lead the rest of the way. The Bruins led 43-23 at the half, a lead they maintained, as the Blue Jays never got within striking distance after the break.
Junior guard Jackson Dubinski joined Kreklow and Norton to give the Bruins a trio in double figures with 12 points of his own.
The game unfolded in front of a predominately pro-Washington crowd in the lower bowl of Mizzou Arena, despite the Blue Jays having to travel nearly 90 more miles than Rock Bridge to participate in Sunday’s shootout.
Scanlon was not surprised and didn’t mind, noting Rock Bridge’s previous games inside Mizzou Arena and the price of admission, which was$10 t0 $15.
However, the veteran coach knows his team put on a show for the fans that were in attendance
“If I were in the crowd I would’ve wanted to play for us, the way we were getting up and down the court,” Scanlon said.