LIBERTY — A record performance from junior Alex Austin helped the Rock Bridge boys’ basketball team overcome a slow start and sloppy play on Monday.
The Bruins defeated Kansas City Central 73-62 in the first round of the Holiday Basketball Classic at William Jewell College.
Austin broke the 3-point shooting record for the tournament two minutes into the second half with his eighth 3-pointer. Austin led all scorers with 28 points and went 8-of-13 on 3-point attempts.
Five players had held the record at seven in the tournaments’ 25-year history. O’Hara’s Marcus Walker tied it most recently in 2003 and could face the Bruins in the championship game if both teams’ advance.
Sophomore Isaiah Warren said he wasn’t surprised with Austin’s record performance.
“He does it in practice all the time,” Warren said. “It was just a matter of time before he did it in a game.”
Austin said the Eagles’ (5-3) zone defense had gaps that he exploited with his outside shooting. It started in the second quarter when he converted on six 3-point attempts.
“I just got in a zone,” Austin said. “When I caught the ball and I had an open look I was just shooting it.”
Austin’s 3-pointers in the second quarter came at a crucial juncture for the Bruins (8-1), who had trailed by as much as seven and never led by more than two in the first quarter.
Austin made his first 3-pointer early in the second quarter to give the Bruins the lead at 22-21, and his sixth 3-pointer at the first-half buzzer gave the Bruins a 42-24 lead.
Despite outscoring the Bruins 38-31 in the second half and forcing 24 Bruins turnovers, the Eagles weren’t able to overcome the second quarter onslaught.
Kansas City Central coach Mark Johnson said that his offense failed to capitalize on the Bruins’ turnovers and that the Bruins simply executed better on offense.
“They did a real good job,” Johnson said. “They put the ball in the middle of the floor on us quite a bit which broke us down.”
The emergence of Austin for the Bruins was yet another example of their depth.
Coach Jim Scanlon said that on any given night a number of his players could carry the team.
“I never know who’s going to lead us because everybody can do some things.”