Bruins down Tigers, move to district final


Ji-Ho Lee

Last year, the Missouri State High School Activities Association (MSHSAA) inserted the boys basketball team into what many considered to be the most challenging district in the state of Missouri. The competition was ungracious to the newcomers, as the Bruins fell to the talented Blue Springs South Jaguars in the district championship game.
The Bruins seek to avoid a repeat of last year in 2016 as they head through districts this week. RBHS has gathered a surplus of talent by way of transfers and freshmen. This talent, combined with the leadership and consistent play of upperclass role players, including senior forwards Carson England and Karson Ringdahl and junior guard Justin Hajicek, created a recipe for success in the regular season.
With the introduction of freshman forward Isiaih Mosley and guards Ben Cooper and Dajuan Harris, as well Jefferson City transfer junior forward Eysan Wiley, the Bruins sprinted out of the gates, winning their first three games. Despite going 3-5 for their next eight games, RBHS finished strong, winning 13 of their last 14. The Bruins enter the district tournament as the top seed, boasting a 19-6 record.
The result of an impressive regular season was a well deserved first-round bye for the Bruins. RBHS watched fourth-seed Smith-Cotton, hosts of the district tournament, defeat Hickman in overtime, 69-66, setting up a matchup between RBHS and Smith-Cotton.
Much of the first quarter was highly competitive, but a late run propelled RBHS to a 22-16 advantage. In the second quarter, the Bruins expanded the lead to a 46-27 advantage. It was two freshmen, Cooper and Mosley, who, along with star senior forward Tre Williams, sparked the offense, netting 33 of the team’s 46 points in the first half.
“We played as a team and stuck to the gameplan,” junior forward Jack Widhalm said. “That helped us get the outcome we wanted.”
The gameplan was a combination of intensity and execution on both sides of the ball.
“In the first half, we came out with a lot of intensity on the defensive end,” England said. “That intensity carried over to our offense which helped our transition and efficiency.”
Two runs by Smith-Cotton in the second half, however, cut into the Bruin lead. The first, a 6-0 spurt to start the third quarter, decreased the advantage to 46-33. The second, a 9-0 run to start the final quarter, dropped the lead to 59-52. Nevertheless, the Bruins would find their footing again offensively.
“That was a key moment in the game,” Widhalm said. “We responded with a string of buckets after the lead got cut to seven.”
Two JV call ups, sophomore forward Drew Boswell and freshman guard Jamonta Black, sparked the team with a block and a three-pointer, respectively. The Bruins finished the game on a 22-5 run, defeating Smith-Cotton 81-57. With the victory, the team advances to the district championship game against second-seeded Blue Springs South (14-11) who defeated Blue Springs, 77-52.
“Moving on, we want to win a district title,” Ringdahl said. “We want to take it one step at a time.”