JEFFERSON CITY –- A pair of underclassmen led Rock Bridge for the first 31 minutes of its district tournament game against Smith-Cotton on Tuesday.
A pair of seniors though, wouldn’t let the Bruins’ season end. Ashley Guy and Melissa White each made a pair of free throws in the final 40 seconds to nudge Rock Bridge past Smith-Cotton 50-46 at Helias in the Class 5 District 10 Tournament.
“I tried not too think of the outcome and just think free throw by free throw,” Guy said. “I just knew what I had to do.”
Rock Bridge will face No. 1 seed Hickman at 6 p.m. Thursday.
After looking lackluster and sluggish for the first three quarters, Rock Bridge relied on its two underclassmen post players, sophomore Amanda Hanson and freshman Ashley Dressler, to lead the way.
Dressler scored seven during an 8-2 Bruin run to cut the lead to 39-37 with 5:10 left.
With the game on the line, Hanson took over.
Her scoring binge began with 3:22 for she made a short jumper. In the next 2 ½ minutes, Hanson pulled down two rebounds and scored six points. Her layup with 50 seconds to go put the Bruins ahead 45-44 and gave Rock Bridge its first lead since 7:27 in the second quarter.
Dressler and Hanson accounted for all but five of the Bruins’ 21 fourth-quarter points.
Hanson finished with 18 points and six rebounds. Dressler chipped in 15 points to go along with eight rebounds and four blocked shots.
The Bruins also used a stifling full-court press to spark the rally. The press caused four turnovers.
“It really started when we put on the pressure,” Rock Bridge coach Bob Plourde said. “Sedalia, like us, is very questionable handling the ball, so we figured we would see if they could turn it over more than we could.”
Smith-Cotton took a 35-24 lead in the third quarter with 4:04 left after Erin Moon’s 3-pointer. Rock Bridge quickly responded with five points, for Rachel Jones made a layup and reserve Cameo Holly made a 3-pointer.
The Bruins (6-18) trailed 37-29 at the beginning of the fourth quarter.
Guy wasn’t worried.
“I looked up at the scoreboard a couple of times and I was just thinking, ‘This is not going to happen, this is not going to happen,’” she said.
Hanson’s late-game dominance was a matter of practicality.
“I didn’t really have any (nerves),” Hanson said. “I was just really tired. I just wanted to get out there and play.”
Despite the deficit, Plourde knew his team could respond.
“This is what we had to do,” he said. “It’s district time, so you just let it all hang out and we did tonight.”
Rock Bridge’s sloppy play allowed Smith-Cotton to take control in the second quarter, for it had six turnovers and missed several open shots. The Tigers made three 3-pointers in the quarter and outscored the Bruins 18-13.
Although the final score didn’t favor Smith-Cotton, its coach was pleased.
“Every time we play Rock Bridge it seems like it ends just like that as one team or the other wins by a couple of points,” Smith-Cotton coach Tom Ellis said. “My girls played their hearts out and I’m really proud of them.”
Plourde says his team can’t let up.
“This was an emotional win, but we’ve got to bounce back,” he said. “You want to go against the best and by gosh, Hickman sure is the best.”
Moon led the Tigers with 14 points. Heather Power added 10.