Rock Bridge’s defense through most of the game helped it survive a late-game letdown.
The Bruins held off a Kirksville rally and won 60-50 on Tuesday night at Rock Bridge.
Kirksville struggled against the Bruins’ defense except for the late run.The crowd, which had been loud all night, was quiet with 48 seconds left. Kirksville had just closed to 55-49 after trailing by as many as 19 in the third quarter. The fans were not the only ones who were nervous.
Sophomore forward John Stull said the team felt the tension as well.
“In the huddle, we were all thinking, ‘Oh shoot,’ but we turned the intensity back up at the end and it turned out OK,” Stull said.
Rock Bridge made three foul shots and got a Stull basket down the stretch to stop the Tigers’ rally.
Kirksville guard Tyler Martin made three 3-pointers in less than one minute to bring the Tigers back.
“Tyler came on strong at the end, but it would’ve been nice if we could’ve shot for the first three quarters,” Kirksville coach Mike Thomas said. “We just had too big of a hill to climb, but that’s exactly what Rock Bridge wants to do to you with their pressure defense.”
Solid defense put Rock Bridge (16-7) in a position to withstand the Tigers’ run. The frustration was evident, for Kirksville managed to hit 10 shots through the first three quarters.
Kirksville’s shooting hit its lowest point in the third quarter. The Tigers attempted three shots in the final five minutes of the quarter. Rock Bridge capitalized by going on a 9-0 run to push the lead to 46-27. Kirksville forward Andrew Sparks hit two foul shots with 31.2 seconds left in the quarter to stop the run.
Stull led the Bruins with 14 points. His inside play was a key factor that not only helped build the second-half lead, but also kept Kirksville from answering.
The first-half stats made this clear, with Kirksville’s starting forwards combining for one point in the first half.
“We just turned up the intensity on defense tonight and that led to our offense,” Stull said.
Bruins coach Jim Scanlon said he was pleased with the way Stull and the rest of his team played.
“We’ve had a few games where we kind of dug a hole early and we had to come back, but tonight we played good pressure defense and held them to a low percentage,” Scanlon said. “Stull has been really consistent the last few games, and it was nice to see him play well again.”
Junior guard Terrell Turner added 12 points for the Bruins. He also hit two important foul shots in the final minute to help clinch the win. Rob Adams led the Bruins in scoring in the first half with nine points, but Kirksville held him in check in the second half. He finished with 10 points.
Rock Bridge led 35-21 with seconds left in the first half when Kirksville’s Will Martin hit a shot at the buzzer to close the lead to 35-23. Martin led the Tigers with 18 points.