Rock Bridge, Hickman girls cruise to Norm Stewart Classic wins

Sunday, December 8, 2013 | 10:24 p.m. CST

COLUMBIA — A weekend removed from playing national powers in Tennessee, the Rock Bridge girls basketball team returned to Missouri to make its fellow home state elite look anything but.

At the Norm Stewart Classic on Sunday inside Columbia College's Southwell Complex, the two-time state title-defending Bruins met Blue Springs in a rematch of last season's 52-41 Class 5 championship.

They made this meeting look easier than the last, never trailing in the 61-28 smattering.

"I think we learned a lot about each other and our roles," Rock Bridge junior Sophie Cunningham said of the team's play last weekend in the Turkey Jamm at Murfreesboro, Tenn. "I think it's gonna make us better from playing (those teams)."

The group fell Dec. 1 to Blackman, Tenn., ranked third in MaxPreps' Xcellent 25 poll and then to No. 11 Riverdale, Tenn., a day later.

Against Blue Springs, ranked No. 2 in the Missouri coaches' poll, the Bruins (1-2) got back to their winning ways in dominant fashion.

A pair of Cunningham 3-pointers boosted Rock Bridge out to a 10-0 lead that would only swell. The Wildcats only mustered five field goals in the game with three of them coming in the third quarter. Before that point, the Bruins had built a 21-4 scoring run out of halftime.

Cunningham led all scorers with 16. Her hot hand from distance early sparked a team that finished with nine treys total. Accounting for three of them was Laurie Frew, the 5-foot-5 point guard who's been filling in for the injured Audrey Holt.

"She's a great little point guard, it's not just threes," coach Jill Nagel said. "Especially down in Tennessee, when we saw a lot of pressing zone full-court presses, she did a great job of handling the ball."

The game before Rock Bridge also featured a running "mercy" clock in the fourth quarter.

Led by junior Emily Miller's 23 points, nine rebounds and eight steals, Hickman buried Troy 63-31.

The Kewpies (2-0) cranked out 90 points in their season-opening win against Waynesville last Monday. They proved once again on Sunday to be an offense with the pieces to execute their coach's desired game plan.

"They're strengths cater to the style of play that I feel is my strength," said coach Tonya Mirts. "So that's a good thing."

That style? It looked something like the team's first two scores, with Miller leaping into a passing lane for the steal and the coast-to-coast layup. It looked something like senior point guard Jordan Matthews getting the ball after the rebound and pushing the ball fast up-court.

"A lot of it comes from getting transition buckets and transition buckets are high percentage buckets," Mirts said.

Along with Miller, Hickman had two others scorers in double-digits with Matthews (13) and fellow senior guard Kendahl Adams (17).

"The nice things about it is all five (starters) can run. You fill the lanes, the defense has a choice: Who are you gonna guard?" Mirts said. "...If you're gonna be short, you better be able to run, and we're able to run."

Perhaps because of the lopsided score early, the Kewpies held back on one aspect of their game.

"The one thing we didn't show was the press," Mirts said, smiling. "That's something these guys can really do."

Supervising editor is Greg Bowers.

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