The gym filled with the echoes of bouncing basketballs and players dripping in sweat. The Rock Bridge boys’ basketball team isn’t taking it easy despite its top ranking in the state Class 5A poll.
They have been practicing defense like they will be going up against the Harlem Globetrotters.
“This is what separates the boys from the men these next couple of weeks, guys,” coach Jim Scanlon yelled at his team. “Who can block out and who can rebound.”
It might only be practice, but for the Bruins, defense is the backbone of their season, and it is what Scanlon emphasized to his team.
“That was great Ky,” Scanlon said to guard Ky Millard during a defensive drill. “If you play defense like that, I don’t care if you don’t score a single point.”
Defense will once again be a key for the Bruins when they host Helias (18-6) at 7 p.m tonight. The game could easily be a preview of the District 10 championship game set for Feb. 24.
The Bruins (22-1) will start the district tournament Wednesday at Smith-Cotton. As the No. 1 seed, the Bruins get a first round bye and will face the winner of Monday’s game between fourth-seeded Hickman and fifth-seeded Camdenton. Helias is the second seed.
Scanlon said that his team is focusing on tonight’s game and not yet looking toward the district tournament.
“We’re just trying to make some adjustments,” Scanlon said. “We haven’t played them this year, so we’ll see what happens.”
With a win, the Bruins are likely to finish the regular season as the top team in the poll. The Bruins took over the top spot on Feb. 8 when powerhouse Vashon lost to Notre Dame Peoria.
Scanlon said the ranking is a nice recognition for his team, but it doesn’t win any games for them, because everyone starts out with a clean slate in the postseason.
Since Jan. 30, the Bruins have been without leading scorer Alex Austin, who tore the ACL in his left knee. Austin started practicing with the team Tuesday in a limited roll. Scanlon has the senior wearing a red jersey during practice. Much like a quarterback during training camp, the other players are to go easier on Austin during practice.
“He’s doing real well,” Scanlon said. “He is ahead of schedule. We hope by next week he will be ready to go.”