Rock Bridge finally kicked the monkey out of its house.
The Bruins beat Hickman 51-44 in girls’ basketball Wednesday night. That has not happened in more than four years and sends Rock Bridge to the Class 5 District 10 Championship game against Jefferson City on Friday at 7 p.m.
The reaction on the Bruins’ bench showed the outcome clearly.
Rock Bridge players screamed and hugged and leaped for joy as the final horn sounded. After shaking their opponents’ hands, they met at center court and screamed, “Our house!” repeatedly as years of frustration and disappointment were replaced with the excitement of beating their biggest rival, at home, in the biggest game of the season.
Senior Ashley Stanfill had never beat Hickman in her career.
“Words can’t even describe it, it’s unbelievable,” Stanfill said.
Sophomore Ashley Dressler tried to describe it.
“I have never felt so good in my life about a basketball game,” Dressler said. “The intensity was great throughout the whole game and the emotions just came out at the end.”
Coach Kevin Giese put it in perspective.
“I think it was a huge gorilla hanging over this program,” Giese said. “(Hickman’s) a great program, coach (Tonya) Mirts does one heck of a job, and that just makes the win that much more special.”
The gorilla hung on as long as it could. Hickman trailed by two points with less than two minutes left, but freshman Claire Schaeperkoetter made four free throws to seal the game and deny Hickman a shot at another district title.
Rock Bridge could never pull away from the Kewpies, but its steady play and tenacious defense prevented Hickman from overtaking the Bruins in the final three quarters.
Rock Bridge played a zone defense for the first time this season and Hickman was not able to shoot over it consistently.
“I’m sure they did not speak one word (before the game) of us playing zone defense,” Giese said.
Mirts was gracious in defeat.
“They were ready to go from the very get go,” Mirts said. “It’s nice to see a Columbia team be successful.”
Rock Bridge’s intensity paved the way for its success.
“We’ve been kind of lethargic in our past two games, so we decided to pick up the intensity in practice,” Schaeperkoetter said. “Our intensity in practice has been unbelievable this past week.”
Dressler’s intensity carried into the postgame.
“We’re not going to give (Hickman) anything else to talk about,” Dressler said. “We beat them, and they’re going to have to start a whole new winning streak.”
Hickman’s Megan McCabe, the team’s only senior, led all scorers with 18 points. She received a standing ovation from Kewpies’ fans after fouling out in the final minute.
Dressler dominated the post in the first half and finished with 16 points, and Cameo Holly added 12 for the Bruins.