COLUMBIA — Rock Bridge High School guard Sophie Cunningham sprints to her left, then to her right. Across from her, Hickman guards Emily Miller and Kendahl Adams are working tirelessly just to advance the ball into the frontcourt.
Cunningham is forcing them to the corners, and her Bruins teammates will soon arrive with the trap.
This time, Miller steps on the sideline. It’s one of seven turnovers the Kewpies commit in the first quarter. The long arms and quick feet inside Rock Bridge's 1-3-1 press are too much to handle.
When the quarter ends, the score is 14-0. It was never close.
The Bruins (23-3) beat the Kewpies (24-2) Saturday, 60-25, and advance to sectional play, where they'll meet Washington (23-4) at 6 p.m. Wednesday in Camdenton.
The result of Saturday’s Class 5, District 9 final at Rock Bridge was all but decided before the Bruin student section even filled up.
The home fans, though, weren’t needed to create the intensity. The Rock Bridge defenders yelled throughout game about shifts and traps.
After the game, the Bruins just wanted to talk about how much fun they had.
“I’m just extremely happy,” senior Chayla Cheadle said. “What I’ll remember the most is how much fun we had together.”
Why so much fun? While offense is typically the more glamorous part of basketball, Rock Bridge made defense en vogue.
“That’s the best defense our whole team has played in a really long time,” Cunningham said. “We were making them very uncomfortable, and that was our main goal.”
In the teams’ last meeting, Hickman guards Adams and Jordan Matthews beat the Bruins' press with relative ease. Saturday’s press was much more aggressive, though, and Matthews, Hickman’s best ball-handler for most of the year, is no longer on the team.
Taking Matthews’ responsibilities in breaking the press was Miller. The junior was the Kewpie’s most talented shooter and all-around player this season, but Saturday she was well out of her comfort zone. Her only two points of the game came with 3:49 left in the fourth quarter.
Fortunately for the Kewpies, Miller will be back for another season. Everyone but Adams is projected to return to a team that lost to only one team this season.
“I think we can beat anybody in the state of Missouri except for Rock Bridge High School in our class,” Hickman coach Tonya Mirts said.
Supervising editor is Mark Selig.