In the initial round of the Missouri state girls basketball tournament, Waynesville coach Brittany Matlock knew her squad faced a tall task against the Rock Bridge Lady Bruins.
CAMDENTON – In the initial round of the Missouri state girls basketball tournament, Waynesville coach Brittany Matlock knew her squad faced a tall task against the Rock Bridge Lady Bruins.
And although the scoreboard may have been lopsided at the final buzzer, the Lady Tigers' overall effort showed otherwise.
With a handful of student-athletes taller than Waynesville's tallest player, Rock Bridge jumped out to an early 11-2 run to open the first quarter.
In the opening period Waynesville seemed rattled by the Rock Bridge defense, but Matlock's squad "never backed down," similar to how the Lady Tigers fought through a seesaw season.
"That's what we talked about," a teary-eyed Matlock said after the contest. "Take the score away, play as hard as you can, let them know that you're here and don't lay down."
The Lady Bruins heavy-pressure half-court press defense forced Waynesville to commit eight first quarter turnovers, which led to 16 easy lay-in points as Rock Bridge closed out the period with a hefty 23-9 lead.
Matlock said she was more proud of the way her team persevered than if the Lady Tigers would have played perfectly.
Throughout the course of the contest, Rock Bridge continually built an increasing lead in the first half – peaking at 23 points – including a halftime lead of 40-18. The third quarter ended at 57-25.
"We came out well, then we threw the ball away a few times and, of course, [Rock Bridge] went on a run," Matlock said.
Rock Bridge ran away with a 63-32 victory, but Matlock was proud of the way Waynesville turned the season around after starting with four consecutive losses, and eventually earning a second-straight District 10 championship.
The final quarter of Wednesday's game was less about winning and more about honoring seniors Dorothy Adams, Hannah Finger and Leslie Larson for their contributions during the season, both on and off the court.
"[The seniors] were great leaders this year and I think that's demonstrated by the way they played tonight," Matlock said. "I couldn't ask for a better group of senior kids."
Matlock blamed her welling eyes on their eventual graduation.
"In the locker room after the game, it's tears more because it's over and our seniors are leaving, as opposed to upset with the outcome.," she explained.
"I told the girls, 'Keep your heads up. This game doesn't define you, it doesn't define our season and you have lots to be proud of,' " Matlock said. "No one even gave us a chance to be here in this situation."
While Wednesday's loss is still fresh, Matlock admitted her eagerness to begin the upcoming basketball season this winter.
"The younger kids stepped in and handled themselves well," Matlock said. "If we can commit extra time [during the offseason], then where can we be this time next year?"
Freshman Kallie Bildner led Waynesville scorers with 13 points; no other player reached double-figures.
*Check out a photo gallery from Wednesday's contest at www.waynesvilledailyguide.com