COLUMBIA — Rock Bridge junior Sophie Cunningham was having an amazing night well before she hit a buzzer beating granny shot as time expired in the first half.
Before the game, Cunningham was at a Panera Bread when she received a phone call from her father. Her older sister, Missouri women's basketball player Lindsey Cunningham, had collapsed at practice and was being rushed to University Hospital.
Sophie and her coach Jill Nagel were worried, until Lindsey walked into the gym just before tipoff.
“She walked over and gave me a hug and told me just to focus on the game,” Sophie said.
When Lindsey arrived in the arena, she still had a red hospital bracelet on; she didn’t waste time getting to the gym from the hospital.
“Getting here was definitely a priority for me,” Lindsey Cunningham said.
The Cunninghams said that the collapse could have been from low blood sugar but that they don’t know anything for sure yet. Lindsey Cunningham, however, said that she was “good to go.”
Inspired by her sister and motivated by a poor performance against Edwardsville (Ill.) in her last game, Sophie came out of the gates quickly, scoring 17 of her team’s first 23 points.
The performance propelled Rock Bridge, No. 13 in the nation (14-2), to a 66-51 win over its rival, Hickman (17-1).
Cunningham went on to score 31 points, including the underhand hoist to end the first half. Cunningham said that she didn’t even use the shot in the game of horse.
“All I heard was my coach saying ‘shoot it,’ so I granny'd it up,” Cunningham said. “I was not expecting it to go in at all.”
“She just threw it up there,” Nagel said. “Obviously, when you’re on, you’re on.”
The Kewpies, who came into the game undefeated, hung tough in their nationally ranked opponent’s gym, trailing only by a score of 54-47 mid-way through the fourth quarter.
“Do you see anyone within seven of them besides these nationally ranked teams?” Hickman coach Tonya Mirts said. “I’d be anxious to see what we could do with Mikayla Logan back.”
Logan missed the game with injury, a player who Mirts calls her best rebounder.
Every Bruins starter is taller than every Kewpie on the roster. Logan is 5-foot-9 but can jump well and would have matched up against some of the Bruins’ post players, who range from 6-foot-1 to 6-foot-4.
Because of the size disadvantage, the Kewpies were forced to work hard for every rebound and were often out-muscled by Bruins junior Cierra Porter.
Hickman junior Emily Miller, who Mirts said an Missouri assistant coach came to see, was able to keep the Kewpies in it with 23 points. Senior Kendahl Adams added 13 for Hickman, but the Kewpies struggled to find other scoring.
“I think we put our best out there,” Adams said. “There’s always going to be round two with them, so we’re ready for next time.”
Round two could only come in postseason play, where the teams met last year and often in the past.
When Hickman had the game within 7 points, Nagel called a timeout, and the Kewpie student section rained down confidence, chanting, “I believe that we will win.”
Nagel was able to collect her team. The Bruins pounded the post after the timeout, scoring the next 8 points.
“Our kids just don’t panic,” Nagel said.
They don’t panic, even when one of the player's sister has a health scare.
Supervising editor is Sasu Siegelbaum.