JEFFERSON CITY – Most athletes don’t get to decide when they have to stop playing the game they love.
Some lose the physical ability to play at a high level, but most simply run out of time.
For the four Rock Bridge seniors, the clock seemed to be winding down on their basketball careers during the final minutes of the Class 5, District 10 championship game against the Helias Crusaders.
But during a timeout with 1:31 left to go in the game and trailing Helias by a point, Erik Darkow, Logan Gray, Isaiah Warren, and Aron White decided that they didn’t want their careers to end just yet.
Darkow and Gray both hit 3-pointers in the final minute to give the Bruins a 43-40 win in the district title at Helias High School’s James L. Rackers Fieldhouse.
“In the timeout, it kind of hit me that this could be it,” Darkow said, who finished with 6 points. “I realized how quick the last four years have gone.”
Gray also realized that he and the other seniors were playing to extend their basketball careers.
“We just didn’t want to stop playing, though,” said Gray, who finished with 14 points, including three 3-pointers.
Darkow was at a loss of words when he tried to explain what it felt like to pull off a dramatic come-from-behind win to capture the district title.
“I can’t really explain it,” Darkow said. “It feels like I’m in a dream. It’s just amazing.”
The Crusaders (20-3) airballed a desperation 3-pointer as the final seconds ran off the clock.
The ball fell into the hands of Gray who heaved the ball into the air in celebration before getting mobbed by the Rock Bridge fans.
“Words can’t really describe the feeling right now,” Gray said. “I can’t think of a bigger game that I’ve played in. This moment is what we worked for all year.”
Rock Bridge coach Jim Scanlon gave all the credit to his players.
“For a while there, it looked like it was Helias’ game,” Scanlon said. “But we worked our tails off. I told them before the game that I was just here to guide them. This game was all about them.”
Sophomore Jordan Dressler finished with 13 points in what he called “the biggest game of my life.”
“It’s just great to help the team win,” Dressler said. “A district title is good, but we’re after a state title.”
The Bruins (23-2) will take the next step to accomplishing that goal at 6 p.m. Wednesday when they play the Fort Zumwalt South Bulldogs (22-4) in the sectional round of the state tournament.
The game will be played at St. Francis Borgia High School in Washington, Mo.