(Town Crier photo/Trent Fletcher)
Jennings, who passed away in 2003, gave Campbell his first coaching job at Caraway High School, 30 years ago, in 1975. That made Wednesday night's 68-54 victory over Valley View in the finals that much sweeter for Campbell and his Rebels.
"I thought the world of Mr. Jennings," said an emotional Campbell. "I really thought a lot of him and this is really a special tournament. We have only won this once before, and that was in 1995. This means a lot to our team and to our school."
In the early going, Riverside looked as thought they might blow the game open as they jumped to a 15-4 lead. Senior point guard Tyler Timms got the Rebels off to a quick start with a pull up 12 foot jumper and then came back with a three pointer from beyond the top of the key to give Riverside a 5-2 lead. Sophomore center Glen Graham scored the next four Rebel points before Garrett Weaver and Jordan Adcock nailed back to back treys to push the Rebel lead to 11 with 2:46 left in the opening quarter.
Valley View battled back with a tenacious full court press that rattled the Rebels. The Blazers came up with three consecutive steals, resulting in easy lay-ups to pull Valley View back to within three, 15-12, with 35 seconds left in the first period. Weaver sank another trey to push the lead back to 18-12 before Drew Kelso nailed a three pointer just before the buzzer to bring the Blazers back to three, 18-15, at the end of the quarter.
The two teams battled on even terms throughout the second quarter with Riverside holding a 30-26 lead at intermission.
Valley View finally pulled even when Darby Palmer scored on an offensive put back to knot the score at 30-30 with 6:32 left in the third stanza. The game was either tied or Riverside held a slight edge through the rest of the third period. Sophomore Matt Walters drilled a three pointer just before the third quarter horn sounded, and the Blazers had their first lead since early in the game, 45-43.
Graham started the fourth quarter with a strong move inside for two and was fouled on the play. The 6'7" post player connected on the free throw to complete the three point play and put the Rebels back up 46-45 with 7:39 to go. With Riverside clinging to a 50-49 lead after an Adcock free throw, James Bickham hit a trey with 4:00 left to tie the score for the last time, 52-52.
The Rebels came up with two key steals in the closing minute, one by Timms that led to a Weaver lay-up and the other when Weaver picked the pocket of Valley View point guard Dustin Osment. Weaver then drove to the Blazer free throw line and hit a pull up jumper, making the score 62-54 with 48 seconds left.
The Rebels iced the game by hitting their last 13 free throw attempts, nine of which came from Weaver.
Riverside was led by Graham who scored 23 points, had eight rebounds and blocked five shots. Weaver scored 20 points, including three treys while Adcock had 16. Timms tallied five points and dished out eight assists while Cody Richardson added four to round out the Rebel attack. Riverside was red hot from the free throw line, going 27-34, to finish at 79 percent on the night.
Valley View was led by Bickham(s 14 points while Bryan Bailey scored 11 and Dustin Osment tallied 10. The Blazers finished 10-16 from the line and hit three treys.
"The bottom line tonight is we didn(t take care of the basketball," said Blazer Coach Jason Manchester. "But give Riverside credit, they had a lot to do with that. They did a good job of getting on our shooters, but we've got to do a better job of taking care of the ball. Graham did a great job of altering our shots and keeping his hands straight up and not fouling. I guess what we needed to do was get up and down the floor a little more and beat him down the floor, but he did a great job tonight. The bottom line is anytime you play and especially on the road, you have to take better care of the basketball. I am proud of my kids. They battled hard. They showed a lot of character."
"We grew up a lot tonight," said Campbell. "You don't blow many 15-4 leads and still win the game. But we bowed up and did that tonight. We hit some big three throws tonight. Valley View is a good ball club. They have lost three games, and two of those are to us. They have some good kids and some good athletes. I thought our zone bothered them. We did a good job of getting out on their shooters. Glen altered a tremendous amount of shots. He did a great job defensively. It was a good team effort. We are tickled to death to win. We have two tournament titles under out belts. Hopefully this is a big momentum builder for us. Our young players are growing up and our seniors are playing like seniors."
Corning claimed the junior high championship with a 52-43 victory over Gosnell.