Everyone knew Tuesday night's 3AA-North showdown between league-leading Buffalo Island Central and the second place Riverside Rebels would be intense, so intense that condensation formed on the roof and fell to the floor, causing action to be stopped during the tightly contested battle.
An overflow and raucous crowd estimated at around 1,500 watched the Rebels jump out to an early lead, only to see the Mustangs battle back to take a hard fought 57-51 victory that clinched at least a tie for the league championship.
The Rebels jumped out to a quick 4-0 lead behind back-to-back buckets by all-everything senior Matt Owens, before BIC's all-conference point guard Brandon Ballard nailed a three-pointer to make the score 4-3 with 4:36 left in the opening quarter.
Junior guard Brooks Taylor, who would later draw a technical foul and sat out the final period of play, nailed a two-pointer to give BIC its first lead, 5-4, at the 4:15 mark. Owens then took matters into his own hands and scored two more buckets, and the Rebels were back on top 8-5. Junior Zac Reynolds nailed a long three-pointer, and Owens scored another deuce and the Rebels had their biggest lead, 13-5, with 1:54 to go in the first period. Ballard hit his second three of the quarter to pull the Ponies within five, and the first quarter ended with the Rebels up 13-8.
Junior post player Zack Ridge started the second quarter scoring for the Rebels with a basket to push the Rebel lead back to seven at 15-8 before Mustang sharpshooter Mark Hawkins, who was held to six points on the night, nailed a long three to make the score 15-11 with 7:00 minutes to go in the half. After both teams traded baskets, Owens put back his own miss to give the Rebels a 19-13 lead with 6:04 to go. Unfortunately for Riverside, that would be the last points they would score in the half. The Mustangs then went on an 11-0 run to close out the first half of play as the Rebels went ice cold from the field, giving BIC a 24-19 lead at intermission.
BIC continued their run in the third quarter as Taylor opened the second half with a basket and Josh Nettles nailed a three and the Mustangs were up 10, 29-19, capping a 16-0 run. Ridge finally broke the Rebel scoring drought with an stick-back bucket and Reynolds added two more to cut the Mustang lead to 29-23. After a basket by Ballard, the Rebels came back to make the score 31-26 with 3:37 left in the third quarter. Taylor then drove for the basket, lost his footing and was called for traveling. Taylor quickly disagreed with the officials and was hit with the technical, and then Mustang coach Bill Taylor argued the call and was also nailed with a technical foul, sending Riverside's Reynolds to the free throw line to shoot four free shots, where he made three to close the Mustang lead to two points at 31-29. The Rebels got the ball on the ensuing possession and Ridge hit a short jumper to bring Riverside even at 31-31 with 2:55 left in the quarter.
Hawkins then picked up a loose ball and nailed a long three, giving the Mustangs the lead, 34-31, with 1:55 to go in the third quarter. Ballard closed the quarter with two free throws, and the Mustangs again had a five-point lead after three quarters.
Ballard started the final frame with a trey, putting BIC up 39-31 before the Rebels made one final charge, starting with a three-point play by Ridge. The 6-4 post player then hit another basket and after Reynolds made a brilliant spin move for another two, Riverside had pulled within one, 39-38 with 6:00 to go in the game.
With Taylor on the bench and with the Rebels determined not to let Hawkins shoot the three, the Mustangs got two huge baskets when Nettles hit a long three-pointer from the left wing to push the Mustang lead to four, 42-38, at the 5:25 mark. Following a bucket by Reynolds, Nettles then nailed another three-pointer, was fouled and made the free throw to give the Ponies a 46-40 lead with 4:40 to go in the game.
BIC's Mark Teguns was then hit with the Mustangs' third technical of the night, sending Reynolds back to the charity stripe, where he connected on 1-2 to cut the lead back to five, 46-41. The Rebels got the basketball but could not score, then following a Mustang turnover, Reynolds was fouled, made 1-2 attempts and cut the lead to 46-42 with 3:08 to go. From then on, the Rebels could get no closer than four, as Ballard, who led the Mustangs with 29 points, continuously hit key free throws down the stretch, connecting on 12-13 for the game. An upbeat Rebel coach Buster Campbell was pleased with his team's effort. "We made them play. We had some bad offensive possessions in the second quarter that really hurt us. We should have gone in up six or eight points at the half, but to our team's credit, when we got down 10 we didn't fold. We played a great defensive ball game, except for two or three breakdowns, and we gave great effort on the boards. We got away from our offensive plan a couple of times, but I can promise you, they knew they were in a ball game."
Campbell continued by saying, "We served notice that we are able to play with the Mustangs. We are not satisfied with playing them close. This is not a moral victory, because had we taken care of business on offense, we would have had an excellent chance of winning the game. Hopefully, we will see them again come district tournament time. I am proud of our kids because BIC has a great ball club. My hat is off to them. They have a very talented team."
A more subdued Mustang coach, Bill Taylor said, "We are glad to get the win against a good team. It was a physical game, probably too physical. You have to give Riverside a lot of credit. They are a tough team. Ballard showed again why he is the best player in our league. He hit the clutch free throws down the stretch and did a great job of leading our team. Nettles came up big with the two threes. I was very pleased we were able to hold Owens to just 17 points. He's a terrific player. The main thing is the victory gives us at least a share of the conference championship."
Joining Owens in double figures with 17 points was Reynolds, while Ridge pumped in 15 more. Michael Dewitt added two to round out the Rebel attack. Riverside managed only 7-13 free throws, and connected on just two threepointers on the night. Riverside drops to 20-7 overall, and 9-2 in league play.
In addition to Ballard's 29, the Mustangs had two other players in double digits, as Taylor and Nettles scored 11 points each. Hawkins closed out the Mustang scoring with six. BIC hit 14-17 from the charity stripe and also poured in eight treys. With the win, BIC improves to 29-1 overall, 12-0 in the conference.
In junior high action, Riverside remained unbeaten with a 60-49 win over the Junior Ponies. Jordan Adcock and Glenn Graham scored 16 points apiece, while Brandon Davis and Garrett Weaver each had nine to lead the Rebel attack. Caleb McCluskey scored six, Cody Richardson had three, while Adam Carpenter added one to round out the Riverside scoring. The Junior Rebels improved to 22-0 on the year overall, and 11-0 in 3AA-North play.
Garrett Qualls scored a game high 22 points, all in the first half, while Terry Roach pumped in 16 points to lead the Junior Mustangs. Lance Davis scored seven and Jordan Phillips added four to round out the BIC attack.
On Friday night, Riverside traveled to Maynard and had little trouble handling the outmanned Tigers, 77-34. Riverside jumped out to a 26-13 lead after the first quarter and blew the game open in the second period on its way to a 52-25 halftime lead.
The Rebels emptied their bench in the second half as 11 different players scored points,led by Zac Reynolds who had 15 points, 12 assists, three steals and a blocked shot. Matt Owens pumped in 13 points to go along with five rebounds and five assists. Six-foot-seven sophomore Tim Lawrence scored a career-high 12 points, while grabbing six rebounds and blocking four shots to help the Rebel cause.
Rounding out Riverside's scoring were Matt Snyder with eight, Jeremy Mann with seven points to go along with five steals, Michael Dewitt and Alex Smith scored five points each, Zac Ridge and Blake Stotts each added four, while Von McDaniel scored two points and had six boards. Tyler Timms completed the Rebel scoring with two more points.
The Rebels hit six treys on the night and shot 5-17 from the free throw line. Riverside improves to 21-7 overall and 10-2 in league play.
Mark Blackwell was the only Maynard player in double figures with 10 points.The Tigers hit three treys on the night and were 6-15 from the charity stripe.
In the junior game, Riverside rolled to a 52-23 win over the Tigers. Jordan Adcock led the Rebels with 11 points, while Cody Richardson scored nine points, dished out three assists and added four steals. Glenn Graham scored eight points and had 10 rebounds, while Travis Mays also chipped in eight points. Garrett Weaver scored seven, Blake Barnes had five, and Brandon Davis and Adam Carpenter scored two points each to lead the Rebels.
Jake Redwine led the Tigers with 11 points.
Riverside returns to conference action this week as they travel to Crowley's Ridge Academy to meet the Falcons Tuesday night before heading to Marmaduke on Friday night to face the Greyhounds.