COLUMBIA — Trailing by only six, Rock Bridge was in striking distance as a De Smet Jesuit player attempted the second of two free throws.
Four Bruins and two Spartans were positioned around the basket as the shot clanked off the rim. Despite outnumbering the opposition, Rock Bridge failed to haul in the rebound, granting the Spartans a second-chance opportunity they took advantage of, increasing their lead to eight and deflating the Bruins’ hopes of a comeback in the past week's 74-64 loss.
Gateway Tech (8-11)
at Rock Bridge (15-8)
WHEN: 7 p.m.
WHERE: Rock Bridge High School
“We had a horrible practice (last) Monday, and we followed it up with a horrible performance on Tuesday,” coach Jim Scanlon said. “It was fundamentals: rebounding, catching the ball, blocking out.”
Although Rock Bridge ended last week with a 32-point pummeling of state-ranked Rockhurst, it was the shortcomings of the past week’s other game that the veteran coach used as a teaching point during the team’s Presidents Day practice.
The majority of the two-hour session was spent on what Scanlon referred to as one of the “situational plays that cost you games” — boxing out opponents for rebounds.
As Scanlon lobbed the ball underhand off the hoop, two offensive players, one to each side of Scanlon, ran toward the hoop with the hopes of snatching an offensive rebound, while a pair of defenders, each with their backs to the basket, one to each side of the paint, turned around to locate the ball and box out the offensive players.
The defenders struggled to consistently come away from the tussle with possession.
Each offensive rebound allowed was accompanied by a flinty warning from Scanlon. “This is going to cost you the season,” he said.
All too often this season, Scanlon has watched from the sidelines as his players on the court become fixated with the ball coming off the hoop, allowing the opponent they’re supposed to guard to slip past them and grab the rebound.
“It’s not the big things, but the little things that get you beat,” Scanlon said. “If we don’t rebound and defend, we’ll be picking up uniforms pretty quick, I know that.”
While Scanlon said the team’s been “better at times” with its blocking out and subsequently with its rebounding, lapses remain too common for his undersized but quick squad.
In the Bruins' 15 wins, they’ve allowed an average of 46.9 points per game. In their eight defeats, opponents are averaging 62.8 points.
The margin of error for this squad – which he says isn’t as talented as some the school has had in the recent past – is thin, Scanlon said. It’s being consistent with the "little things," such as boxing out defenders and extending two arms instead of one for rebounds, that has been the difference between winning and losing.
“This time of year, you can’t be bad,” Scanlon said. “You’re bad a certain night, your season’s over. You’ve got to be good, consistently good.”
Supervising editor is Grant Hodder.