Rock Bridge Girls and Hickman Boys Fall in District 7 Championship Matches
BLUE SPRINGS — After trailing for most of the contest, Rock Bridge women’s basketball needed a spark in the fourth quarter.
After what happened midway through the final period in Thursday’s District 7 Class 6 Championship game against Blue Springs South, it looked like a boost wasn’t coming in the Jaguars’ 65-62 upset against the Bruins.
But, it almost happened.
After an Addison Hopkins layup cut South’s lead to 58-50, Bruins star guard Averi Kroenke rolled his ankle after fouling the Jaguars on possession. She struggled to put all of her weight on her right foot as she left the match in tears.
It looked like it would be an injury that wouldn’t allow him to come back. However, after spending a minute of playing time with a coach, she felt good enough to finish the match with 3:32 remaining.
“Unfortunately I had ankle injuries in the past,” Kroenke said. “I thought, ‘Now is not the time to sit down. I was going to do everything I could to get back into the game.”
She helped lead a furious Bruins comeback and even cut the lead to 63-62 with 23 seconds left after a left wing turnover jumper entered. But the Jaguars followed with a big bucket and a save on the final two possessions as Rock Bridge fell by one possession.
Kroenke said she had to overcome pain throughout the stretch and was still able to score six points in the final 3 minutes for a game-high 25.
“It was a little weak. I couldn’t push well against it,” Kroenke said of his ankle. “When you get into the game, things fade a bit.”
Rock Bridge head coach Jill Nagel said she’s admired Kroencke’s tenacity all season.
“She’s a warrior,” Nagel said. “She never took a game, even in training.”
The Bruins (26-2) went into fourth down 48-38 and they slowly reduced their lead. A pair of 3-pointers from Mari Miller helped them come back and a pair of turnaround jumpers from Kroenke helped his team close the gap to one.
At one point, the Bruins had a chance to tie or take the lead as they trailed 62-60, but a turnover on an out-of-bounds pass took away that opportunity.
Rock Bridge went to a full-court press but South broke it and main guard Jaidynn Mason got a wide-open layup with 10 seconds left to put his team back in place by three.
The Jaguars fouled Kroenke twice to ensure she wouldn’t get a shot and to swallow some clock. It was just 0.7 seconds before Christina Maltsberger landed a wide open three high off the key that hit the back iron and bounced harmlessly to the floor when the buzzer sounded.
Continued:District Roundup: Hickman Holds Rock Bridge in Thriller; Bruins girls will play for a title
The Bruins struggled to slow South’s fast guarding duo of Mason and senior Saneea Bevley as they combined for 39 points. The Rock Bridge defense struggled to keep them from getting to the basket and getting points on the fast break.
“They’re great guards,” Nagel said. “We played them earlier in the year and were able to contain them more than we did today. We missed too many shots and they managed to get transition buckets.
Rock Bridge will lose three seniors at graduation, including Kroenke, who will play at the University of Missouri next winter.
“I’m sad for the seniors that we couldn’t go a little further (in the playoffs) for them,” Nagel said. “They’ve put in so much work over their career.”
Ezeogu and Blue Springs end Hickman’s season
Sometimes when a player gets hot, there’s no stopping them.
That’s what the Hickman boys’ basketball team faced against Blue Springs in the District 7 Class 6 Championship game.
Wildcats forward Ikenna Ezeogu could not be stopped and the Kewpies had no answer for him. The senior dropped 45 points, including 32 in the first half in a 71-40 loss to Hickman on Thursday.
“I didn’t expect to come out and score so much, honestly,” Ezeogu said. “I thought I was going to start slowly. All that matters is that we got the double (win).
The 6-foot-5 Ezeoku dominated the glass and scored 23 points in the first quarter to help Blue Springs take a 24-10 lead.
“He’s a terrific athlete, probably the No. 1 factor for this game,” Hickman’s coach Cray Logan said of Ezeogu. “They had other great athletes who also caused us a lot of problems in defence.”
Hickman cut that lead to 37-26 before halftime thanks to a pair of threes from senior Henry Wilson and seven points from rookie Brock Wilson-Camp.
Blue Springs dominated the offensive glass in the third period with five and five players scored at least one point to expand the lead to 55-33 going into the fourth. During that span, Wilson, who led Hickman with 15 points, had to sit out the entire time with four fouls. Meanwhile, the Kewpies have shot just 1 of 6 from the field in that span.
“It’s just one of those things that we just have to adjust to the refereeing,” Logan said. “I think the officials did a good job. We just tried to stay positive and make adjustments where necessary.
Hickman never came close to under 21 in the fourth period as a tough second period was made worse after Wilson committed his fifth foul and was disqualified from the game. As he left the floor, a frustrated Wilson was given a technical foul after shoving Blue Springs senior Kyle Bruce. This led to four free throws for Ezeogu, who was fouled by Wilson on the play.
Senior guard Keshawn Oliver added 11 points for Hickman.
The Kewpies finished 16-12 this season and will lose five seniors at graduation.
“Without trying to get too emotional, I’m so grateful that I got to coach them,” Logan said of his seniors. “I know their best days are still ahead of them.”
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