After watching his team practice Thursday, Riverside head coach Buster Campbell said he had a premonition that his Rebels would play a good ball game Friday night at Bay. His team made him look like a prophet, as they put together one of their most complete performances on the year in downing a very good Yellowjacket team, 70-63.
Riverside knew if they defeated the Jackets it would set up a probable showdown with Buffalo Island Central Tuesday night at Caraway with the league lead on the line. But first things first, and that was disposing of Bay, a team that had taken the Mustangs into double overtime before losing a heartbreaking 73-67 decision in their previous outing. Add to the fact that 6-4 junior center Derek McMasters was back in the lineup following a shoulder separation that had shelved him in the two teams' previous meeting, and the Rebels had plenty to be concerned about.
Bay started off hot as Robby Bollinger nailed two three-pointers to give the Jackets a quick 6-1 lead over Riverside before the Rebels rallied behind two baskets and two free throws by
senior Matt Owens. Following another Bollinger trey, Owens and Alex Smith put in back to back buckets to tie the score for the first time at nine. Then, Rebel post player Zack Ridge put in an offensive rebound to give the Rebels their first lead, 11-9, but again Bollinger, who was on fire, nailed his fourth trey of the quarter and Bay had its last lead of the game, 12-11.
Riverside's Zac Reynolds drove the length of the floor for a two-pointer to give the Rebels a 13-12 advantage and was fouled. Following the made free throw attempt, the Rebels were up 14-12 and proceeded to stretch the margin to 18-12 by the end of the first period.
Owens, who Bay unsuccessfully tried to keep in check the entire night, opened the second quarter with a bucket and the Rebels had their biggest lead of the night, 20-12, before the Jackets went on a 4-0 run to pull within four, 20-16. The Rebels built their lead back up, and, when senior Von McDaniel scored on a lay-in late in the half, the Rebels enjoyed their largest lead to date, 29-20.
But the Jackets would go on a run of their own, led by McMasters, who began to dominate inside, and Bay closed the gap to 33-28 at halftime.
In the third period, Bay continued to chip into the Rebel lead and, when senior Sye Barnett hit a short jumper at the 2:20 mark, the game was tied for the first time since early in the first quarter at 44-all. The Jackets received a crippling blow when McMasters picked up his third foul inside 2:00 of the third quarter and had to go to the bench. Both teams traded buckets before the Rebels scored right before the buzzer to take a 48-46 advantage into the final frame.
Riverside drew first blood in the final quarter and stretched their lead to six at 52-46, but saw their 6-4 post man Ridge pick up his fourth foul, sending him to the pines. Shortly thereafter, McMasters got tagged with his fourth personal foul, sending Owens to the line, where he made two free shots, giving the Rebels a 54-47 lead.
Bay battled back behind McMasters, who hit two free throws, and then Bollinger scored back to back buckets to pull the Jackets to within one, 54-53. But when McMasters fouled out of the game, Bay's chances took a severe blow, and the Rebels built a five-point lead, 63-58, with 1:28 to go in the game. Barnett hit a huge three-pointer from the left corner with 1:12 to go to cut the Rebel advantage to 63-61, but the Jackets were forced to foul, and the Rebels made them pay by hitting crucial free throws down the stretch to hold on and gain their 20th win of the season. The win improved Riverside to 20-6 overall and 9-1 in league play, and set up Tuesday night's showdown with conference leader BIC, who defeated the Rebels earlier in the year at Leachville to give the Rebels their only conference loss of the season. Bay dropped to 15-9 overall and 5-5 in league play.
Riverside was led by Owens, who scored a game high 28 points, along with 11 rebounds, while Reynolds pitched in 21 more, including some key free throws in the last minute of the game. Ridge had eight, Michael Dewitt scored six, while McDaniel and Smith added four and three points respectively. The Rebels hit only three treys, but shot 21-30 from the charity stripe.
Bollinger led the Bay attack with 22 points, including six three-pointers, four of which came in the first quarter, while McMasters finished with 18. Barnett tallied nine points, Davey Webb scored six, Justin Hutchison added four, while Brett Hogan and Taylor Ferguson added two each. Bay nailed eight three-pointers on the night, but struggled at the free throw line, hitting only 9-18.
"Free throws killed us," said Bay head coach Brandon Craig. "But I feel like we are playing much better as a team. Our defense wasn't there tonight, gave up five offensive boards in the first half, although we did pick it up in the second half. Foul trouble hurt us, and Owens did an outstanding job. He's a great player. Riverside hit the free throws when it counted, and that was the difference in the game."
"This was a big win," Campbell said. "This was as sweet a win as we've had all year. It was a hard-nosed game. We gave up some easy buckets early, we let Bollinger hurt us in the first quarter and McMasters in the second. But I thought Bay had to earn everything they got after intermission. Owens had a great game. We had a great defensive effort. We took a good shot from Bay. They were ready to play."
In junior high action, Riverside continued their march through the 3AA-North Conference with a convincing 54-38 win over Bay to remain unbeaten. With the win, the Rebels improved to 21-0 overall and a perfect 9-0 in league play.
The Rebels placed three players in double figures, led by Garret Weaver's 17 points. Jordan Adcock and Glen Graham pumped in 15 points apiece. Jacob Saffell had three, while Adam Carpenter and Brandon Davis scored two each to round out the Rebel attack. The Junior Rebels nailed six three-pointers on the night, while going 14-23 from the free throw line.
Riverside jumped out to 20-4 first quarter lead, and led 27-16 at the half, before putting the game away in the third quarter, building as much as a 23-point lead before finishing the quarter up 44-24.
Bay was led by Tyrone Harris, who scored 10 points and Garrett Bollinger, who added eight more.
In seventh grade action, Bay avoided a clean sweep, posting a 33-26 victory.
Earlier in the week, the Rebels traveled to Walnut Ridge and posted a hard fought 63-51 victory over a pesky Bobcat team which refused to quit.
After jumping out to a 14-12 first quarter lead, the Rebels went to the dressing room up three, 29-26. Riverside stretched their lead to five after three quarters, 40-35, before putting the game away late behind the duo of Matt Owens and Zac Reynolds who led the Rebels with 23 points apiece. Owens also grabbed 15 rebounds and hit 10-15 from the charity stripe, while Reynolds bombed five treys on the night. Michael Dewitt also scored double figures for the Rebels with 10 points, including three treys and five assists. Zack Ridge scored three, while Von McDaniel and Matt Snyder added two each to round out the Rebel scoring. Riverside hit nine treys for the night and made 20-31 from the free throw line.
Walnut Ridge placed three players in double digits, led by Chance Weeks who had 19 points. He was joined by Ryan Bauschlicher with 11 and Jeremy Hart with 10. The Bobcats had five three pointers and hit 12-16 free throws.
In the junior game, Riverside finally subdued a determined Walnut Ridge team, 54-36, in a game that was closer than the score indicated. The Junior Rebels led only 20-18 at the half, and 35-31 entering the fourth quarter before outscoring the Bobcats 19-5 in the final frame to secure the victory.
Brandon Davis led the Rebels with 18 points, while Jordan Adcock chipped in 15 more. Caleb McCluskey scored eight, Garrett Weaver had six, Glenn Graham put in three, while Cody Richardson and Michael Lawrence chipped in two apiece to round out the Riverside scoring.
Seth Chamblee led the Bobcats with 13 points.
Following Tuesday night's showdown with BIC, the Rebels will travel to Maynard Friday night to take on the Tigers.