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Madison Treece (6p-4r) defends Cor Jesu's Claire Boyce during Friday's 52-41 semifinal win. Photo by Madeline Kuligowski.
Madison Treece (6p-4r) defends Cor Jesu's Claire Boyce during Friday's 52-41 semifinal win. Photo by Madeline Kuligowski.

Bruins pull away from Chargers, advance to title game

Although their road to Mizzou Arena wasn’t as smoothly paved as the last few seasons, the RBHS girls basketball team defeated Cor Jesu Academy 52-41 tonight in the Missouri State High School Activities Association’s semifinal round of division 5.

In the first quarter the Bruins found success on both offense and defense, building up a 13-6 lead. However, they seemingly couldn’t catch a break – or make a shot – for much of the second quarter.

From 1:54 remaining in the first until 1:34 to go in the first half, a span of more than eight minutes, Cor Jesu held RBHS scoreless while tying the game at 13. Despite that, the Bruins scored four points in the final two minutes to take a 17-13 lead into the half.

RBHS head coach Jill Nagel joked after the game that the team forgets big droughts like that, and emphasized that the team has to have a “short memory” in those situations.

“They took away a lot of our first and second looks that we wanted to have,” Nagel said. “We kind of settled for some shots in the first half; [in the] second half we got the shots we wanted and attacked the basket a lot more.”

Scoring opened up in the third quarter as the teams traded baskets. Each time the Bruins seemed to start to pull away, the Chargers hit another big shot.

Entering the final eight minutes of play RBHS led 34-29. After a three-pointer by Chrisco Natalie (11 points), the Bruins went on a 12-2 run to put the game away; they held a 46-34 lead with 2:17 left in the game. Nagel said the Bruins found began to settle in midway through the third period.

“I thought we got some really good looks at the basket in the third quarter,” Nagel said. “We started attacking more, especially from the high post area with Cierra [Porter] looking to attack there. We had some nice basket drives and some nice dishes to Madison [Treece] on the inside.”

The Bruins outscored the Chargers 28-8 in the paint in the second half, an improvement from their 6-2 mark inside in the first. After utilizing their matchup advantages under the hoop, especially Cierra Porter who nearly notched a double-double with 15 points and nine rebounds, the Bruins went on to win 52-41.

John Neff, head coach of the Chargers was proud of his team’s play but thought the Bruins were tough on the hardwood.

“I don’t know if we really wanted to slow the game down as much as we were having trouble penetrating Rock Bridge’s defense,” Neff said. “hey are pretty athletic and even when we drove they would have an answer with a post player to protect the paint. We were a little tentative to drive, I thought.

For the seniors, Saturday’s game is their last at RBHS. They have one more opportunity, one more chance to win. For Nagel, like every game for four years, the Bruins simply have to take it one game at a time.

“…we have one more game,” she said. “This is the position that we’ve put ourselves in. Coming into this game we said, ‘Win [the] semifinal; set new goals.’ Tomorrow morning we’ll be setting new goals.”

Sophie Cunningham, who led the Bruins with 21 points (11 in the fourth quarter) on 9-of-13 shooting, six rebounds and five assists, couldn’t manage to keep quiet today, though. She grabbed the mic sitting in front of her head coach, laughed and quickly said one word:

Four-peat.”

By Brett Stover

The Bruins take on Liberty High School on Saturday, March 21 at 8:30 p.m. in Mizzou Arena.

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