Their potential district tournament title game matchup figures to be a doozy of a rematch.
The Jefferson City Lady Jays and Rock Bridge Bruins swapped body blows for four quarters in a state-ranked battle Thursday night at Fleming Fieldhouse.
"It was not pretty, but it was a win," Lady Jays coach Brad Conway said after Class 5 No. 5 Jefferson City overcame a seven-point deficit in the third quarter to defeat Class 5 No. 2 Rock Bridge 50-45.
Jefferson City and Rock Bridge assuredly will be the No. 1 and 2 seeds in next month's Class 5 District 9 Tournament at Battle High School in Columbia.
Thursday night's game had the atmosphere of a postseason game.
Rock Bridge led 10-8 after an up-and-down first quarter. Jefferson City was 4-of-17 from the field in the first eight minutes, while Rock Bridge converted on five of its eight shots.
"It sure looked like it was going to be a slugfest," Conway said.
Neither offense got much going in the second quarter either. Hannah Linthacum hit a 3-pointer with 5:30 to go before halftime to pull Jefferson City into a tie at 14. The two teams swapped points for the rest of the quarter, with a layup by Hannah Nilges giving the Lady Jays a 22-19 advantage at intermission.
Rock Bridge was just 3-of-12 from the field in second quarter.
"We had to play some defense, Rock Bridge has been scoring a lot of points," Conway said. "Transition, half-court, we've spent the last three days working on it.
"I think recently we'd been playing defense in slow motion."
Jefferson City led 29-27 midway through the third quarter when Sarah Linthcum was whistled for a technical foul after her elbow connected with the nose of Rock Bridge's Averi Kroenke under the Lady Jays' basket. The game was delayed for about 10 minutes to clean blood off the floor.
Kroenke did not return to the game, receiving medical treatment before going to the Rock Bridge bench in the final minutes of the fourth quarter.
Eryn Puett of the Bruins hit two free throws after the technical to tie the game to spark an 11-2 Rock Bridge run during the next two minutes. That gave the Bruins their biggest lead of the night at 38-31.
"That stoppage affected us because we were in a rhythm," Conway said.
Jefferson City scored the final four points of the quarter to cut the deficit to 38-35.
Kara Daly converted layups off assists by Sarah Linthacum on consecutive possessions, sandwiched around a Rock Bridge turnover, to give Jefferson City a 43-42 lead with 3:30 remaining. After KK Brodie of the Bruins tied it with a free throw, Linthacum hit a layup with 2:45 left to give Jefferson City the lead for good at 45-43.
That was the start of a 7-0 run by Jefferson City to ice the game.
"Our composure in the fourth quarter was really, really good," Conway said. "We got some big stops when we needed to."
The final margin could have been bigger, except Jefferson City was just 9-of-16 at the free- throw line in the fourth quarter and 13-of-27 from the stripe in the game.
"We've been harping about being better at that, hopefully now they take to heart and do what they're supposed to do," Conway said. "Free throws can win or lose games."
Sarah Linthacum finished with 18 points and 10 rebounds for the Lady Jays. Daly finished with 13 points.
Brooke Bates had five points, but pulled down eight rebounds while playing a strong game on defense from her guard spot for Jefferson City.
"She's scrappy, she does a lot of the little things that help us win," Conway said. "She can disrupt the other team."
Jefferson City finished with a 42-27 edge in rebounds.
"We had been giving up extra possessions and we did a better job of not letting that happen tonight," Conway said.
Puett finished with 14 points to lead Rock Bridge (15-4). Brodie had 12 points and a team-high eight rebounds.
Jefferson City (18-2) is back in action Tuesday in the opener of a girls-boys doubleheader against Helias at Rackers Fieldhouse. Game time is 6 p.m.
In Thursday night's JV game, Rock Bridge defeated Jefferson City 42-20. Addison Morgan had 10 points to lead the Lady Jays.
In a schedule change, Jefferson City will now host Battle on Friday, Feb. 21. That game was originally slated to be played Thursday. Battle, Hickman and Sedalia Smith-Cotton will join Jefferson City and Rock Bridge in the district tournament, which will hold its seed meeting late next week.