Lady Bruins pull through with semifinals victory despite slow start

Abbie Powers

The team jump up in exuberance after the buzzer sounds, making their 46-43 win official. Photo by Halley Hollis.
The athletes of Rock Bridge High School’s girls basketball team (25-3) proved worthy of the buzzing hype preceding this afternoon’s Class 5 State Semifinal game. The Mizzou Arena’s grand stage let the crowd’s bellowing cheers feel perfectly at home as students emitted effortless enthusiasm for the Lady Bruins.
Strength and dexterity forced enough determination from the girls basketball team to push them through a game played almost entirely in the lose. But the steady stamina of the Lady Bruins allowed them to slowly find their way to victory with a final score of 46-43.
The team played against Incarnate Word Academy of St. Louis, MO, who held a 21-6 record before Rock Bridge’s victory at today’s game. Although IWA Red Knights fought with powerful offensive moves, it was the Bruin’s fierce approach to both scoring and defending, struggling and attaining, that pulled through with yet another win.
During the game’s first half, the Lady Bruins were not able to dig their claws in deep enough to reach a lead in points, and IWA was up 17-5 by the end of the first quarter. In the second quarter, the Red Knights were able to attain a 15 point  lead (the largest of the game) over the Bruins. Although their opponents were consistent in scoring, Rock Bridge evenly pushed for an advantage. The second quarter finished with IWA up 26-16.
At the start of the second half and after no warm-up for both teams, the Bruins showed a fresh persistence in both physical and mental energy as they firmly secured enough points to close their losing gap.
Near the end of the third quarter, the RB girls demonstrated quickness and skill as their comeback became increasingly solid. Freshman guard Sophie Cunningham shot a clean two pointer, and as the Red Knights then fumbled for a basket of their own, senior guard Lindsay Cunningham took the ball back to make a move. She flew crosscourt and snagged another two pointer, just 10 seconds after the previous.
With 6:03 left in the game, Sophie tore down the court and made another two points, attaining a foul in the process. When her first free throw easily fell through the net, IWA and Rock Bridge became tied at 34-34. Less than two minutes later, the Bruins made another shot, taking their first lead of the game by one point. As the clock ticked down, the Rock Bridge girls made move after well-executed move, and with one minute left were up 40-34.
The last minute of the game stretched out eight, with the Red Knights calling multiple time-outs and both sides fouling at least once. The Red Knights fought desperately to bring the score back to a tie and into overtime. With 34 seconds left, IWA was able to cut Rock Bridge’s lead down to a dangerously close 42-40.
With less than a minute left in the game, the Lady Bruins were up 44-40. When freshman center, Cierra Porter, lost the ball to an amiss free throw, sophomore guard/forward Chayla Cheadle instantly scooped it back up and attained yet another two points. So when IWA scored a final two pointer with just a second left on the clock, the Lady Bruins were well protected and full of victory cheer.
Sophomore guard Audrey Holt knows the importance of a positive attitude and unwavering perseverance.
“For me, [the highlight] probably had to be when Sophie came down the floor and passed [the ball] to me for an open layup,” Holt said. “We were in the middle of a big run, and we had all of this momentum, so it just got us all hyped up.”
Holt values the strength found within the bond of her team, and knows their closeness pushes everyone to strive purposefully to success.
“We all get along so well and honestly do love each other. We’re a family [and] just knew that this was the thing we had been fighting for all year,” Holt said. “We worked so hard to get where we are, and we weren’t going to give up without a fight.”
By Abbie Powers
Bruins will play Blue Springs (27-4) Saturday, 3:00 p.m. at Mizzou Arena for the championship game.