ST. LOUIS — They were down eight to start the fourth quarter — season on the line at JQH Arena.
Then-senior Ja’Monta Black hit a 3-pointer with 5:04 left. The triple gave the Rock Bridge Bruins just their second lead in the second half, but it was a lead they wouldn’t give up.
Black and fellow teammate Isiaih Mosley combined for over half of the Bruins’ scoring.
The seniors led Rock Bridge to a 25-3 season and the program’s first-ever Missouri Class 5 state title.
“They’re just two great kids who loved basketball and wanted to be good at it,” Rock Bridge boy’s basketball coach Jim Scanlon said. “They helped our program have a ton of success.”
And that wasn’t the last time they’d play at JQH.
Missouri State head coach Dana Ford, impressed with the teammates’ athletic abilities, turned three Bruins into Bears. One of the signees, Dajuan Harris withdrew his letter of intent in May 2019.
Instead of a Rock Bridge trio, Springfield welcomed a Rock Bridge duo.
“I know they chose where they wanted to go, but I think it’s probably a good idea they have each other to lean on,” Scanlon said. “College is hard, so it’s nice they have each other to talk to and work with.”
Black averaged 15.2 points, 4.2 rebounds and two assists his senior year, collecting a team-high 80 3-pointers. He earned all-state honors at the conclusion of his senior campaign while collecting all-district accolades for the third straight year.
"His skill set continues to evolve every year," Bears' associate head coach Corey Gipson said in 2018. "Standing at 6-foot-4, he has the ability to play the lead guard position, shoot consistently from behind the arc, and defend multiple positions.”
Mosley led the Bruins in scoring, averaging 23.2 points. The forward also averaged 6.9 rebounds and two assists per game as a senior before being named Mr. Show-Me Basketball by the Missouri Basketball Coaches Association.
The 6-foot-5 Missouri native is the fourth MSU player to receive the state’s top high school honor. He joins a short, elite list alongside Spencer Laurie (2003), Drew Richards (2004) and current Bear Jared Ridder.
"Isiaih is a big, physical guard who possesses a natural ability to score the basketball at all three levels,” Gipson said in a press release. “His versatility as a scorer, rebounder and playmaker will most definitely be an asset to the program."
Almost a year after winning their first state championship, the headband brothers looked to help lead Missouri State to its first conference tournament championship since 2011. The Bears lost to Indiana State, 60-56 that year.
Black is averaging 19.7 minutes in his 30 games as a Bear, earning the start in 18 outings. He’s averaging 3.4 points per game and posted a season-high 10 points in a loss at Northern Iowa on Jan. 29.
The guard is closing out his freshman campaign shooting 40.9% from deep, similar to his 47% efficiency during last season at Rock Bridge. Black sank a triple in 14 consecutive games from Jan. 14 to Feb. 29.
Mosley has recorded 10 starts in 30 games in maroon and white, averaging 21.9 minutes. He’s posted 13 double-figure games, averaging 8.2 points a game. The freshman earned a season-high 23 points at Evansville on Jan. 18.
The forward moved into 10th place on MSU’s all-time freshman scoring list, racking up 256 total points so far this season. Mosley also earned Coors Player of the Week on Dec. 15, 2019.
Missouri State lost to Valparaiso on Saturday, 89-82. Scanlon said he follows along with Black and Mosley and watched the semifinal game.
“They’re just freshman and they’re doing just fine,” Scanlon said. “They’ll get older and more mature, and with three years left at Missouri State, I think they’ll have a lot of success. I’m very proud of them.”