Sometimes, the other team is just little better.
The CBC Cadets found that out, falling 63-59 to Rock Bridge in the Class 5 boys basketball state championship game played at JQH Arena on the campus of Missouri State University in Springfield.
“It’s disappointing,” CBC coach Justin Tatum said. “We did our best. Everyone knows how hard it is to get the Final Four. When you lose, it’s tough. There tears from the seniors. That’s to be expected. That’s it for them.
“As the days went by since then, the guys realize they got to go state. It’s a blessing to get there. A lot of teams wish they could be there. They did everything they could to win it. Rock Bridge had special players. It was a hard fought game on both side but Rock Bridge played a litte bit better and won.”
CBC finished 24-8 on the season. It was the eighth appearance in the championship game for the program. It was the Cadets first time in the Final Four since they won the program’s sixth state crown in 2014.
“We accomplished a lot this season,” Tatum said. “This was a good experience for the team. We did everything we wanted to but win that last game. Getting to play in that game provided some enjoyment to our seniors who put four years in the program.”
CBC led 32-31 at halftime. The Cadet outscored the Bruins 13-6 to lead 45-37 at the end of the third quarter.
“It was back and forth,” Tatum said. “We we were able to make some shots. We got to halftime and had the lead. We were strong in the third quarter and led by eight.
“But we didn’t take it for granted. We know it takes four quarters to play a basketball game.”
With 5:43 to play, the teams were tied at 47-all.
CBC junior Caleb scored an old-fashion three-point play with a basket and free throw to put the Cadets up 57-55 with 1:19 remaining.
“Caleb had an exceptional game,” Tatium said. “He did everything he could on both ends of the floor. But no lead is safe.”
Rock Bridge fought back and went ahead with 31 seconds left. The Bruins hit their free throws and sealed the victory. In the game, Rock Bridge canned 19 of 21 free-throw opportunities.
Love finished with 28 points. Senior Ari Jackson added 14 points.
“Caleb is an exceptional player. He’s a really special kid. He’ll get in the weight room and work on hitting his jump shot beter. Talent-wise for a 16-year-old kid, he’s right there. He’ll grow another inch or two. He’ll be a player to watch.
“Jackson was hot on 3-pointers. When we were struggling on offense, he hit a couple of big shots. Ari played really well for us in his last game at CBC.”
In the semifinal, CBC slipped past Francis Howell 64-62. The Vikings were making their first appearance in the Final Four.
“It was a really good game,” Tatum said. “They were fired up.
Francis Howell lost 6-foot-9 sophomore center Sam Thompson in the second quarter with an arm injury.
“They lost their talented sophomore and I think that hurt them,” Tatum said. “We got to pressing them and they fouled a couple of guys out.
Francis Howell led 36-27 at halftime. The Cadets pulled within a basket at 51-49 at the end of the third.
With just over 4 minutes to play, CBC trailed by eight points at 60-52.
“We didn’t panic,” Tatum said. “We knew the clock was not on our side.
Love hit a basket to put CBC ahead 61-60 with 1:15 to play. That was the Cadets’ first lead in the game.
Love had a huge game. He finished with a game-high 25 points. He also grabbed six rebounds, dished out three assists and had five steals.
Senior shooting guard Jackson Andrews had 14 points.
Sophomore guard and defensive stopper Chevalier Brenson had 13 points and six rebounds for the Cadets.
“Chevalier was one of our best players in the Francis Howell game,” Tatum said. “He really helped us win that one. He’s been solid all year. Senior point guard Rob Martin was solid in the game, too.”
Tatum called the season “a success” and liked what his team did.
“They showed me that as the season went on, they found ways to stick together and listen to the coaches. Everything is possible when you do that.
It took a little luck and hard work and dedication.
“It was success for us. We made to to where we wanted to be. We saw growth and leadership. We didn’t win but overall the kids matured and grew as young men. We can build off this.”
The program will lose nine seniors to graduation.
Love will be back along with Brenson, who also was a starter.
“We’ve guys who will help like Martin, Justin Smith, Eric Holmes and a number of other guys. We had a strong JV class so we will be good.
“The future looks real good I think.”