The Riverside Rebels came into Friday night's game against Rector with sole possession of second place in the 3AA-North Conference. With only one loss in conference action and facing a struggling Cougar team looking for its first league win, Riverside didn't expect to be taken down to the wire on its home court in Caraway, but that's exactly what happened.
Following the junior high homecoming festivities which preceded the tipoff, the Rebels came out sluggish and led only 11-7 after the first quarter. The second period was even worse for the Johnny Rebs, as turnovers and sloppy play saw a seven point lead evaporate to a two-point deficit by halftime.
The Rebels came out on fire to start the second half with an 8-0 run to turn a 22-20 halftime deficit into a 28-22 lead. After senior forward Alex Smith completed a three-point play, the Rebels enjoyed their biggest lead of the night of eight points, 32-24, before the never-say-die Cougars cut the lead to 37-32, with a 5-0 run of their own to end the third period.
Senior Matt Owens started the final period by hitting a 10-foot jumper to give the Rebels a 39-32 lead. The rest of the quarter was a see-saw battle as Rector battled back to pull within four late in the game, before junior guard Zac Reynolds nailed a long three-pointer from the top of the key to push the Rebel lead back to seven. After a basket by Rector's Nathan Wyatt, who led all scorers with 18 points, pulled the Cougars back to within five, Reynolds and Owens nailed four free throws in a row, giving the Rebels their biggest lead of nine points. Riverside then ran out the clock and held on for a hard fought 52-45 victory.
"It was a small w, not a capital W," said Riverside coach Buster Campbell. "I have to give them credit. They broke us down defensively, holding us to 6-22 shooting in the first half. Thirty percent shooting is not going to get it done. We showed no life, and never got our fast break going. I thought our one bright spot was Alex Smith. He had a good game, both scoring and rebounding," added Campbell.
"We played about as well as we could defensively," said first year Rector coach Mark Manchester. "Defensively we took them out of throwing the ball where they wanted to, and shut down the passing lanes. However, we didn't shoot very well at all, and weren't very consistent on offense. I was proud of our effort. We are showing signs of improvement," concluded Manchester.
The Rebels, who are now ranked ninth overall in the state AA rankings, improved to 18-6, and 7-1 in league play with the victory. Owens joined Smith in leading the Rebels with 13 points and eight rebounds each. Reynolds also scored double figures with 12 points, while Zack Ridge added seven points and a team high 10 rebounds. Michael Dewitt added five points and Von McDaniel tallied two points to round out the Riverside scoring.
James Hemphill joined Wyatt in double figures for the Cougars with 12 points.
In junior high action, Riverside remained undefeated with a 59-39 homecoming victory as Jordan Adcock poured in 22 points and Brandon Davis and Glen Graham added 12 more apiece to pace the junior Rebels. Rounding out the Rebel attack was Caleb McCluskey, Tim Barrett and Casey Hook with three points each, while Cody Richardson and Bradley Tucker pitched in two each. Riverside bombed six treys on the night, including three by Adcock.
Rector was led by Jase Speer with 14 points, Clarence Clark had nine, Jackie Graham scored eight, Derek Wyss added seven, while Daniel Hester scored one to round out the Cougar attack.
On Tuesday night, Riverside posted a close 56-50 conference victory over a determined Walnut Ridge team behind the game high 26 points from Zac Reynolds, who also nailed six three-pointers on the evening. Matt Owens scored 13 points, Alex Smith had nine, including 7-8 at the free throw stripe, Zack Ridge scored four, Michael Dewitt added three, and Tim Lawrence pitched in one to round out the Rebel scoring.
Walnut Ridge's Chance Weeks led all scorers with 27 points, including 15-16 at the free throw line.
In the junior high game, Riverside rolled to a 48-25 victory as 11 Rebels got in the scoring column, led by Jordan Adcock's game high 17. Michael Lawrence scored six, Caleb McCluskey and Glen Graham had four each, while Garrett Weaver, Travis Mays, Blake Barnes and Casey Hook all netted three points apiece. Brandon Davis and Cody Richardson each scored two, and Jacob Saffell added one point for the Rebels.
Walnut Ridge was led by Cody White and Tyler Kennedy, who both scored eight points.