Riverside didn't find out until a couple of hours before their semi-final match-up with arch rival Buffalo Island Central that 6'7" 270 pound freshman Glen Graham would not be able to play in the rest of the 3AA North Junior District Tournament due to a back injury. But once the news broke, it spread like wildfire and gave hope to the other three semi-finalists that maybe, just maybe, they could knock off the conference champion Rebels.
But Riverside Coach Buster Campbell challenged his players and they more than responded when the game started as the Rebels smoked the Mustangs early and never let up on their way to a convincing 60-31 victory and a spot in Saturday night's championship game opposite Marmaduke.
Garrett Weaver poured in a game high 24 points while Casey Hook drilled four treys en route to a 16 point performance as the Rebels hit from everywhere on the floor, including 11 of their last 12 field goal attempts in the final quarter.
Riverside spotted the Mustangs an early 2-0 lead and then went on an 11-0 run as they built a 22-7 first period lead and increased the margin to 31-15 by the half. Things didn't get any better for the Mustangs in the second half as the Rebels continued to pour it on, building up a 24 point lead, 48-24, entering the final quarter. The Rebels then scorched the nets and built the lead to as many as 31 points, invoking the mercy rule, as the Rebels improved to 25-2 on the year.
Other Rebels in the scoring column were Bradley Tucker, playing in place of the injured Graham, who scored seven points and grabbed eight rebounds. Cody Richardson also scored seven points while Travis Mays chipped in six. Riverside finished 6-7 from the foul line and bombed eight treys on the night.
Buffalo Island Central was led by Jordan Griggs who scored 15 points. Shane Barnes and Trevor Matheny scored six points each while Nathan Perrin added four as the Mustangs closed out their season with a 17-12 record. The Junior Ponies finished 2-5 from the foul line and hit three treys on the evening.
"We just found out a couple of hours before the game that Glen (Graham) would not be able to play," said Riverside Coach Buster Campbell. "I told the kids they could either lay down or prove what kind of team and players they are. They showed what they were made out of. They played one heck of a game. Bradley Tucker did a great job in place of Graham. I have said all along that he (Tucker) would start for any other team in the league. We did a good job defensively. This group of kids can play. Casey Hook had a real good night, but they all played well. Tell me somebody who didn't. I want to make it clear that Glen Graham wanted to play, but we had to take the doctor's advice to make sure he will be okay. He will be checked out at the Children's Hospital in Little Rock next Tuesday. This was a great win, and I also want to commend our fans. They were great."
"Obviously, nobody wants to lose a junior high player that is 6'7" with a soft touch like Graham," said BIC Coach Bill Taylor. "But it worked out well for Riverside tonight. They were even faster and more athletic and we just could not keep up with them. They have a great team, but I was proud of our kids. We didn't quit. We had a good year, finishing 17-12, and we will just have to learn from this and build on it for the future."