RESERVE — For nearly a year now, the Riverside basketball team has been left with the sour taste of defeat after losing the Class 2A championship game to archrival, John Curtis last year. It was their first loss in a championship game, and it certainly didn’t sit well.
Tuesday night, they finally got to rinse.
Convinced by their coach that they were the hottest shooting basketball team in the state, the Rebels came out of their home locker room blazing to get their revenge, taking a 85-76 quarterfinal victory. It was the teams’ fourth meeting this season.The teams split the regular-season pair in district play, each taking a close win and forcing a playoff game which Riverside won in the final seconds.
This one was never in doubt.
Seemingly unable to miss, Riverside hit nine 3-pointers in the first quarter alone to build up a 27-14 lead it didn’t relinquish or even come close to it.
Rebels coach Timmy Byrd said, it was all a matter of mind over matter.
“Our team bought into what we were going to do,”Byrd said. “We made them believe they were great shooters. Our players felt like they were the better team. And, in the first half, our guys were scary looking.”
Freshman Malik Crowfield may not have looked scary on the bench, but he proved to be on the court. The 6-foot-3 guard scored 23 points in the first half and finished with a game-high 28. Sophomore Von Julien scored 20, Jordan Andrews scored 14. Freshman Herb McGee finished with 11, including six points from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter.
Curtis was led by Malichi Dupre and Isaac Banks, who both finished with 22. Richard Durant scored 17.
Although better at the inside game, especially early, the Patriots had no answer for the Rebels’ hot shooting. Byrd said the game plan going in was to control the tempo and take shots — which certainly worked. At one point in the third quarter, the Rebels led 61-38.
But Byrd said he backed off of that in the second half, trying to chew up clock with the big lead. That allowed Curtis to chip away at the Rebels lead to make the game close — if not in doubt.
Riverside scored just one basket in the final period – a 3-pointer by Crowfield at the 4:30 mark. The rest of Riverside’s 20 points came at the free-throw line.
“We didn’t not shoot well in the other games against Curtis,” Byrd said. “We just got real good looks tonight.”
Crowfield said he and his teammates wanted this one.
“This was our revenge,” he said.
The Rebels advance to their fourth state tournament in four years, where they will take on University High.