Since entering the Williams Baptist College Invitational Tournament several years ago, the championship has belonged to the Riverside Rebels more times than not. After finishing runner-up to Marmaduke last season, the Rebels were determined to reclaim the championship, and that is exactly what they did as they rolled through the tournament with three straight victories.
The Rebels started their championship quest Thursday night with a 58-41 thumping over the Walnut Ridge Bobcats. Led by senior Matt Owens and junior Zac Reynolds who scored 25 and 14 points respectively, the Rebels had little trouble with the out-manned Bobcats.
Riverside jumped to a 14-6 first quarter lead, before stretching the advantage to 27-16 by the half. The Rebels then outscored Walnut Ridge 23-13 in the third quarter to open up a 50-29 lead entering the final quarter.
Other Rebel scoring had Michael Dewitt with six points, Zack Ridge with four, while Alex Smith, Von McDaniel and Jeremy Mann added three points apiece.
The Bobcats were led by Chance Weeks with 14 points, while Ryan Belcher added eight.
The Rebels then advanced to the semi-finals on Friday night to take on a tough Hoxie Mustang team. Riverside fought off the taller Mustangs with a balanced scoring attack capturing a 70-62 decision which propelled the Rebels into Saturday night(s championship game against Batesville Southside.
Riverside had four players in double figures against Hoxie as Matt Owens led the way with 23 points, Zac Reynolds scored 16, Zack Ridge had 14, while Michael Dewitt chipped in 12 more. Rounding out the Rebels( attack was Tyler Timms with three and Von McDaniel with two.
Riverside came up big at the free throw line, hitting on 23-28 in holding off a late Hoxie charge. The Rebels also knocked down seven three pointers in the game.
Hoxie placed three players in double digits, led by Brock Spurlock who had 16, followed closely by Drew Gardner(s 15 points, and Matt Dorton who contributed 11. The Ponies hit 9-16 at the line and also nailed seven three-pointers in the game.
Riverside led 18-15 after the first period, stretched the lead to 27-20 at the half, and entered the final quarter with a nine point lead 45-36.
The stage was set for the championship game on Saturday night against the Southerners of Batesville Southside in a game where the Rebels led from start to finish in winning the championship 56-51. Riverside jumped out to a 9-3 first quarter lead, but saw Southside fight back to pull within three at the half, 19-16. The Rebels were able to stretch the lead to 37-32 entering the final frame and held off a tough Southerner challenge with some key baskets down the stretch to claim the championship.
"We talked early in the week about being seeded number one and I challenged our team to play like a number one seed. People are beginning to give us respect and I think we are really responding to it. The defense really stepped up and that was the key to winning the tournament title," said Rebel Head Coach Buster Campbell. Campbell praised Southside for not quitting, but gave credit to his team for meeting the challenge when they had to. "This is a good bunch of kids, and they deserve this title," added Campbell.
"We played good defense the whole game," said Rebel guard Michael Dewitt. "We didn't shoot our free throws as well as we should have but we handled the ball well and made some tough shots when we needed them," said the 5'9" senior guard.
Batesville Southside Coach Chris Nail said his team didn't play well, but gave credit to the Rebels for playing hard-nosed defense. "Riverside did a great job and are a well coached team. I thought our team showed great character by not giving up. I just wish we could have made a few more shots," added the Southerner coach whose team fell to 12-5 on the year.
Junior Zac Reynolds placed the Rebels in scoring with a game high 24 points, while Dewitt pitched in 16 and Matt Owens added 13. Alex Smith scored two and Tyler Timms had one point to round out the Rebel attack.
Batesville Southside was paced by Bradley Hardin who scored 20 points.
The Rebels, now 10-4 on the year, placed two players on the all-tournament team in Matt Owens and Zac Reynolds.
Riverside will return to action on Tuesday night as they enter another tournament, the Gerald Jennings Holiday Invitational at Manila. The third seeded Rebels will play at 7:15 against the host Manila Lions.
The undefeated Riverside Junior High boys received the number one seed and will play at 5:00 Monday afternoon against eighth seeded Armorel.