COLUMBIA — It’s not actually over.
Yes, Friday night was Senior Night at Rock Bridge High School. Five Bruins played the final regular season home game of their career.
But they’re not finished playing on that hardwood.
Rock Bridge will host the Class 5 District 9 tournament. The seniors will have at least one, and probably two, more games on their home floor.
Still, Friday night was something special for Jackson Dubinski, Zach Carroll, Zach Reuter, Travon Tumey and Arris Pardalos.
Each senior was greeted at half-court by his parents before the game. The seniors had prepared bios to be read about them, with things they had learned and what they had enjoyed the most in their time as a Bruin.
Carroll learned that everything is a team effort. Dubinski found out that preparation is the key to success. And nearly every senior listed beating Hickman High School as his favorite memory.
A night already high on emotion was not lacking in thrill. Rock Bridge took down Helias Catholic High School 55-54 in a game that came down to the last 0.6 second.
“That was a perfect game,” Pardalos said.
For the first 16 minutes, the only thing that went right for Rock Bridge was the opening ceremonies.
The Bruins trailed 15-4 at the end of the first quarter.
They missed three layups and two free throws and gave away four turnovers in the first quarter. On the other side of the ball, Helias knocked down five 3-pointers in a row.
Dubinski and Pardalos agreed that nerves from Senior Night could have caused the unusually poor performance from Rock Bridge at the beginning of the game.
“I made a couple of uncharacteristic plays to start the game,” Dubinski said. “I made two turnovers, and I dribbled one off my foot.”
Rock Bridge trailed by 12 points at the half. But the Bruins weren’t about to let the Crusaders spoil their senior night.
Rock Bridge opened up the second half with an 8-0 run. With 3:23 left in the third quarter, Carroll dropped in a layup to tie the score at 32 apiece. Rock Bridge took a 38-37 lead into the fourth quarter.
Neither team would budge. No more than two possessions separated the teams the rest of the way.
With 9.3 seconds remaining, the Bruins had the ball and Rock Bridge coach Jim Scanlon took a timeout. The score was tied 53-53.
Out of the timeout, junior guard Ryan Kreklow took the ball at the top of the key. He broke down his man and drove in to the lane but dished the ball out at the last second to Eric Kuse, who put in a shot off the glass with 0.6 second remaining to give the Bruins a 55-53 lead.
A crafty inbounds play put Helias on the free throw line, but the Crusaders made only one of the two foul shots.
Scanlon was pleased with the way his team fought back. He spoke highly of this senior class.
“I don’t think I’ll ever have another class work this hard,” Scanlon said. “I mean, the last half was hard. But by them practicing hard every day, they were ready for it.”
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