COLUMBIA, Mo. – The Columbia Rock Bridge Bruins were too big, too fast, too strong and athletic for the Blue Springs boys basketball team.
Well, at least for one day it looked that way, but it was a day the Wildcats’ season came to a screeching halt. The high-powered Blue Springs offense that averaged 63.3 points per game was held in check against the Bruins as it suffered a 81-46 shellacking in the championships of the Class 5 District 9 Tournament Saturday at Hickman High School.
The Blue Springs offense had a maddening amount of trouble navigating the No. 1 seed’s defense in the first half, and wasn’t able to get the open looks it normally find against other teams from behind the arc. Rock Bridge mixed a man-to-man defense with a 3-2 zone and Blue Springs was unable to solve the puzzle.
“We went to 3-2 (zone) a little bit more because it seemed to be working pretty good,” Rock Bridge coach Jim Scanlon said. “I thought it was a toss-up game. (Blue Springs) has three really good scorers. I thought our guys did a great job on their two shooters (Tyree King and RJ Lawrence). I think they got frustrated a little bit.”
Lawrence, who had 10 points and didn’t make a 3-pointer, said Rock Bridge’s style of the 3-2 zone got the offense out of sync.
“They usually come out more than that (in the zone). Them sagging back took away our game plan and what we intended to do,” Lawrence said. “We never transitioned over and or switched to anything. We just tried to make our game plan work.”
Blue Springs head coach Adam Jones said the offensive struggles also had a lot to do with the lack of execution.
“We weren’t confused by the 3-2 (zone). We watched all their film and practiced against it for 2 hours yesterday. We knew exactly what they were going to run. We just didn’t execute very well,” Jones said.
A pair of Daniel Parker 3-pointers was the only scoring for the Wildcats (17-10) during a first quarter in which it fell behind 14-6. It was much of the same in the second as Parker again scored all of his team’s points. As a matter of fact, no one not named Parker scored for Blue Springs as it trailed 28-12 at halftime.
“You’re back on your heels when you’re down 10-0 right away,” Jones said. “When they went to the 3-2, the ball stuck and we didn’t share it as much as we had lately. We shot way too many 3-pointers. When we went inside, we scored.”
As a team, the Wildcats shot just 4 of 19 from the field (21 percent) in the first 16 minutes and made just 4 of 23 3-point attempts (17 percent) for the game in an uncharacteristic offensive performance.
Added Lawrence: “We couldn’t find the right spots (to shoot from) and nobody attacked.”
Even though the Blue Springs offense started to show signs of life in the third, it couldn’t stop Rock Bridge on the other end as the Bruins scored on 12 of 18 possessions in the period to increase the lead to 52-31.
“We were down by so much, we had to do some things on defense that we’re not used to doing,” Jones said. “Even in the half-court, we were asking our kids to get out and gamble a little more than we wanted to. It really exposes you. Most of our games have been close this year, so that’s not something we’ve had to do much.”
The No. 2 seed had a hard time handling 6-foot-5 Rock Bridge big man Eysan Wiley, who had his way down low and scored a game-high 24 points. Fellow 6-foot-5 forward Isaiah Mosley actually gave the Cats fits on the dribble drive and shooting from the outside, as he poured in 21 points.
The fourth quarter got out of hand when the Bruins outscored the Wildcats 29-17. It was Murphy’s law for Blue Springs.
“I felt like some people may have thought that if they didn’t shoot the first shot they got, they weren’t going to get the ball back,” said Parker, who had a team-high 20 points. “It happens a lot. I felt like we could have swung the ball more and attack the rim.”