Saturday night's 3AA-North Junior High District Championship game at Walnut Ridge between the Riverside Rebels and the Buffalo Island Central Mustangs was huge in more ways than one. Not only are the two teams arch-rivals, but both had very important streaks on the line as well as the tournament championship. Riverside entered the game with a perfect 27-0 mark, including an undefeated run through the conference to go along with two victories over the Mustangs. On the other hand, BIC was shooting for its ninth straight junior high district title. Something had to give.
When all the dust had settled, Riverside outscored the Mustangs 22-10 in the fourth quarter, as Brandon Davis scored all nine of his points to help the Rebels hold off BIC to claim the championship and give the Rebels a perfect 28-0 season, the first in school history.
Both teams came out tight, with each team committing numerous turnovers. After BIC's Terry Roach hit a short jumper to knot the score at 6-6 with 1:25 left in the first quarter, the Rebels went on a 7-0 run to take a 13-6 lead capped off by a three-pointer at the buzzer by Riverside's Jordan Adcock.
The Mustangs opened the second quarter with a 7-0 run of their own and tied the score at 13-13 when Jordan Griggs nailed a three-pointer out of the right corner with 4:30 left in the half. Glenn Graham then hit a hook shot to give the Rebels the lead back at 15-13 before Roach answered to tie the score again at 15-all.
Riverside's Caleb McCluskey nailed a long trey at the 3:38 mark and the Rebels were back on top 18-15 at the 3:28 mark. Following an offensive stick-back by Pony center Lance Davis to cut the Rebel lead to one, Adcock hit one of two free throws and the Rebels led 19-17 with 1:35 left in the half. Lance Davis then scored another basket to tie the score at 19, before both teams traded buckets to close out the half in a 21-21 tie.
Riverside's Adcock nailed a jumper to open the second half to give the Rebels a 23-21 lead, before Roach, who led BIC with 17 points, drove for two, and the score was tied again 23-23. After both teams traded baskets on consecutive possessions, Roach again scored and gave the Mustangs a 29-27 lead.Following a free throw by Rebel Michael Lawrence, Qualls nailed a running jumper and the Ponies were up 31-28 with 2:40 to go in the quarter. Graham answered with another hook shot to pull the Rebels to within one, and after both teams swapped buckets, BIC had a 33-32 lead with 1:44 remaining in the third quarter. Then the Mustangs nailed back-to-back treys from Griggs and Qualls to give BIC its largest lead of the night at the 1:16 mark, prompting Rebel coach Buster Campbell to take a time out.
Riverside responded by scoring the last five points of the quarter to close the Mustang lead to two, 39-37, entering the final frame.
Adock began the final period with a three-pointer, and the Rebels took back the lead, 40-39, to complete an 8-0 run. Griggs then scored a bucket for the Mustangsand was fouled on the play by Adcock, his fourth foul of the night. Following a Riverside turnover, Griggs scored again and BIC led 43-40 with 4:30 left in the game.
That's when the Rebel press started to wear down the Mustangs, as Riverside regained the lead for good when Adcock hit a 17-foot jumper to put the Rebels up 44-43, with 4:20 to go. McCluskey added a bucket, and the Rebels were up three, 46-43. Adcock then picked up his fifth foul, and the Rebels lost their leading scorer for the night. But Riverside was not to be denied, as Cody Richardson, substituting for Adcock, immediately made a steal, and fed Graham, who was fouled. Graham, a 6-6 eighth grader, who along with Adcock led the Rebels with 19 points, hit one of two from the charity stripe, to give the Rebels a 47-43 lead. When Graham missed the second free shot, the Mustangs' Lance Davis was fouled on the rebound and promptly made the one-and-one to pull the Ponies to within two, 47-45. Brandon Davis then gave the Rebels a four-point lead on a stick-back bucket with 3:17 to go, and after a Mustang turnover, Davis grabbed a missed Rebel shot and put it back in and Riverside was up 51-45 with at the 2:50 mark.
BIC made one last charge as Griggs and Roach hit back-to-back jumpers to pull the Mustangs to within two, 51-49, with 2:05 left. But from that point on, BIC never scored again and the Rebels got the last eight points of the game, thanks mainly to a pair of steals off the press by Garrett Weaver and Glenn Graham, as well as clutch free throw shooting to give the Rebels the championship and an undefeated season.
Rounding out the scoring for Riverside was McCluskey with six, while Weaver and Lawrence added three points apiece.
The Mustangs, who finished 20-9 on the season, were led by Roach's 17 points, while Qualls and Griggs added 11 each. Davis added eight points, while Jordan Phillips contributed two as BIC saw its streak of eight straight district titles come to an end.
"It's sweet," said an elated Campbell. "I give all the credit to my team. It's very hard to go 28-0. We had a target on our back from the mid-point of the season to the finish, and we answered every challenge. We had to come from behind in three or four games, and tonight, when we were down, I told them, we've been here before, we can come back and do it again. I'm extremely, extremely, proud of them."
"We were a little worried when Jordan fouled out, but this isn't a one-man show. He's our leader, no doubt, but we pulled together as a team, didn't make turnovers, handled the ball well, hit some free throws, got some defensive stops and got some key rebounds. Graham had a nice game, Davis hit two big buckets on inbound plays, McCluskey played well, Cody played well off the bench, and Weaver made some big steals and hit a big bucket toward the end," continued Campbell.
"BIC got better as the year went on. The Roach kid really played well and Griggs hit some big shots for them. Those two hurt us. I thought Roach kept them in the game. But in the end we did a real good job on them."
"We've never been undefeated before now. This is really special,"concluded the Rebel coach.
"Riverside is a great team, and tonight they showed why," said Mustang Coach Bill Taylor. "We played well for three quarters, but the difference was we couldn't handle their press as well as we wanted to. We just had too many turnovers. We rebounded well, hit enough perimeter shots to win, but our turnovers led to too many easy shots for them, whereas everything we got offensively we had to work so hard for."
"The Graham kid did a fine job hitting those 8-10 foot hooks. I was disappointed because when the best player in the league (Jordan Adcock) fouls out with almost four minutes to go, I thought we had a real good chance to win. Roach had a real good game on both ends. I was really proud of him. I'm very proud of my team. We had a good season, finishing 20-9," concluded Taylor.
Conference and district champion Riverside placed all five starters on the all-conference team -- Jordan Adcock, Caleb McCLuskey, Brandon Davis, Glenn Graham and Garrett Weaver. BIC placed three players -- Lance Davis, Terry Roach and Garrett Qualls. Regular-season conference runnerup Crowley's Ridge Academy also placed three players on the all conference team -- Michael Davis, Alan Williams and Brandon Webb. Bay had Garrett Bollinger and Tyrone Harris, Walnut Ridge added Seth Chamblee and Chris Logan, while the rest of the team included Jase Speer of Rector, Ben Jordan of Marmaduke and Jake Redwine of Maynard.
Riverside advanced to the championship with an easy 62-34 first round win over Maynard. Jordan Adcock led the Rebels with 20 points, while Caleb McCluskey scored 10. Brandon Davis had seven, Garrett Weaver netted five, Adam Carpenter scored four, Michael Lawrence, Cody Richardson, Blake Barnes, and Nathan Eldridge all netted three, Tim Barrett had two, while Stevie Robison and Bradley Tucker netted one point apiece. Jake Redwine led Maynard with 13 points.
Riverside had a tougher time in the semifinals before finally pulling away to a 49-34 victory over host Walnut Ridge, which had upset Bay in the quarterfinals. Adcock again led the Rebels with 22 points, while Weaver added 12 more. Lawrence and McCluskey scored four points apiece, Graham netted three, while Richardson and Davis added two each. Seth Chamblee led the Bobcats with 17 points.
BIC opened the tournament with a 66-50 victory over Marmaduke, as Garrett Qualls pumped in a game-high 29 points to pace the Mustangs. Lance Davis scored 13, Jordan Phillips had eight, Terry Roach tallied six, Jordan Griggs netted five, Shane Barnes had three, while Brian Whitlow and Trevor Matheny scored one point apiece. The Mustangs went to the line 43 times, making good on 27, to help secure the victory. Marmaduke was led by Ben Jordan with 14 points.
BIC then met CRA in the semifinals and posted a hard-fought 44-40 victory over the Falcons. Roach and Davis led the Ponies with 12 and 11 points respectively. Griggs scored nine, Qualls had six, Phillips netted four, while Nick Birdno added two to cap off the Mustang attack. The Falcons placed two players in double figures as Aaron Palmer and Michael Davis had 11 and 10 points respectively to lead CRA.