COLUMBIA —Rock Bridge senior Zach Carroll hung his head and slumped his shoulders. He knew it was a foul, and he knew it was his fifth — and final. Carroll plopped down on the white cushion of the last chair on the Rock Bridge bench. He buried his head in his white jersey.
Rock Bridge was down seven points with 42.5 seconds left in the game. Carroll knew it was his final play as a Bruin.
The final buzzer sounded, and that was it.
The Rock Bridge High School boys basketball team's season was over.
The No. 2 Bruins lost 74-62 in the Class 5, District 9 semifinals to the No. 3 Jefferson City Jays. Carroll joined four other seniors in their final game for Rock Bridge.
The Bruins finished the year 21-4.
Rock Bridge coach Jim Scanlon was in shock.
"I never saw this coming," he said, shaking his head. "We've got the best group of seniors we ever had."
For the first three quarters, neither team could gain an advantage. Jefferson City jumped out early, but Rock Bridge fought back in the second quarter. The Bruins took a 31-29 lead into halftime.
The third quarter was the same, with the teams going back and forth. Jefferson City flipped the scales, though, and went into the fourth quarter with a 44-42 lead.
Heading into the final eight minutes of play, there had been 10 lead changes.
That's when the well dried up for Rock Bridge.
The Bruins didn't make a field goal for the first five minutes of the fourth quarter while the Jays went on a 15-1 run.
Jackson Dubinski and Ryan Kreklow did what they could to keep the Bruins in the game. Dubinski broke the run with a corner three and finished the game with 17 points. Kreklow added 18 points of his own.
Rock Bridge changed its defensive strategy. In the last meeting between the two schools, a 1-point overtime win for Rock Bridge, the Bruins were able to full-court press the Jays into turnovers.
But the press did nothing to stop Jefferson City on Tuesday. The Jays broke the full-court press again and again, scoring layup after layup.
"I've never seen so many layups. Our defense was awful," Scanlon said. "We won this year as a team, but we lost as individuals. We started cracking some shots up we didn't need."
When Carroll fouled out, Jefferson City was in the bonus. The Jays made their free throws.
The party was on for the Jefferson City fans that made the trip. The student section chanted, singing "Hey, hey, hey goodbye" as the Bruins made their way off the court.
The hallways in the basement were quiet after the game. A few sobs escaped the Bruins' locker room. None of the Bruins emerged for more than half an hour.
When Dubinski stepped back into the gym, only a few people were left. He hugged five friends, each with consoling words. He came to his mother last. She looked at him with a sympathetic smile. He embraced her and put his head down on her shoulder.
"It was a great year," Dubinski said. "Nobody really respected us, and we had a lot of great moments."
Dubinski cleared his throat. His eyes were red, his voice low and raspy.
"The thing I think I'll remember most is that nobody thought we were going to be good," he said. "But by doing the little things, sticking together and being resilient through tough times, we kept overcoming obstacles.
He paused again and inhaled deeply. He was standing on the floor he would never play on again.
"That's all you can really ask for."
Supervising editor is Sean Morrison.