The long awaited match-up between arch-rivals Riverside and Buffalo Island Central more than lived up to its billing as the two teams slugged it out like a pair of heavyweights and showed why this is the premier rivalry in Northeast Arkansas. When the dust had settled, it was Riverside that delivered the knock out punch as the Rebels lassoed the Mustangs in a 79-75 overtime thriller in the semi-finals of the Northeast Arkansas Invitational Tournament Friday night at the Convocation Center in Jonesboro before a raucous crowd of more than 6,500.
In an atmosphere reminiscent of a major college basketball game it was the Rebels that controlled the tempo and also corralled BIC's high scoring Division I basketball signee Brooks Taylor. Taylor came into the game having just set the all time NEA Tournament scoring mark, but the Rebels incorporated a diamond and one defense and held the 6'3" senior to no field goals and only two points.
Rebel senior M.J. Emery and sophomore Cody Richardson took turns harassing Taylor with the help of point guard Tyler Timms, who helped with a double team anytime Taylor touched the ball. The duo was the prime reason Taylor finished 0-11 from the field. Taylor, who seemed frustrated most of the night, picked up his fifth foul when he was whistled for a technical with 2:41 left in the game. Garrett Weaver sank both technical free throws to give Riverside a 65-58 lead.
The Mustangs rallied after their star player left the floor to force the overtime. Riverside sank eight straight free throws to build a 69-62 lead with 2:20 left in the game. But the Mustangs rallied as senior Cord Rose drove the length of the floor for a quick two and then stole Riverside's inbounds pass underneath the BIC goal and laid it in for two more to pull his team within 69-66 with 1:49 remaining.
The Rebels then misfired on a couple of three point attempts, and BIC claimed the rebound and worked the ball to Derek Rolland, who ripped a three pointer from the left corner to tie the score 69-69 with 1:37 left in the game. Both teams missed chances to win the game in regulation as the game fell into overtime.
Riverside struck first in the extra period when Glen Graham worked himself inside for an easy basket, making the score 71-69. After a Mustang turnover, Riverside's Jordan Adcock, who finished the night with a double-double of 22 points and 11 rebounds, hit 1-2 free throws to give the Rebels a 72-69 lead with 2:53 left in the overtime.
Rolland brought the Mustangs back with a stick-back after a rebound and with 1:08 to go nailed both ends of a one and one to give BIC their last lead, 73-72. Weaver then bombed home a long three with 50 seconds left to put the Rebels back on top 75-73. BIC junior Garrett Qualls knotted the score at 75-75 when he hit a pair of free throws with 34.3 seconds.
The Mustangs elected to foul Riverside's Richardson with 17.5 seconds left and the sophomore calmly sank both free throws to give the Rebels the lead for good, 77-75. BIC misfired on its next possession, and was forced to foul again, sending Adcock to the line, who finished off the Mustangs, setting the final score at 79-75.
"Our kids just did a great job of executing our game plan on defense," said Riverside Coach Buster Campbell. "M.J. (Emery) and Cody (Richardson) should get the game ball split in half for the job they did on Taylor. Glen got some big buckets when we needed them. Garrett Weaver had ice water in his veins. Tyler did a great job. He was the one who helped double on Taylor. That was the best we have rebounded all year. Adcock played a man's game tonight. I can't brag on the kids enough."
"We weathered the storm tonight when BIC made some runs," continued Campbell. "BIC is a good ball club. But we are 16-3. We're a good club too. It was kind of aggravating hearing some people question whether we could win or not. But I knew we could and the kids believed it too. We will see them some more and there will be some great battles. That's two good ball clubs."
Riverside led throughout the first half as they built a 15-11 lead after the first quarter. The Rebels held their biggest lead of the game with 2:41 left in the first half when Timms nailed a trey, making the score 32-24. Jordan Phillips' offensive put-back pulled the Mustangs to 33-26 at the half.
The game stayed close through the third quarter as BIC rallied to pull within one on a Qualls three pointer at the 2:40 mark as the Mustangs cut the lead to 44-43. Riverside led 53-47 when Richardson hit both ends of a one and one but Hunter Smith's three pointer with three seconds left in the quarter brought BIC to within 53-50 entering the final frame.
Joining Adcock in double figures for the Rebels was Weaver who finished with 21 points and four assists. Graham scored 19 points and pulled down nine rebounds while Timms scored nine points and dished out six assists. Richardson had six points and nine boards while Emery added two points. The Rebels finished 22-40 from the field, including 8-21 from beyond the three point arc. Riverside was 27-39 from the charity stripe.
BIC was led by Rolland who had 23 points, including three treys. Smith finished with 19 points and four treys. Rose scored 14 while Qualls hit three treys on his way to 13 points. Phillips tallied four while Taylor finished with two. BIC was 22-60 from the field and 11-25 from three point land. The Mustangs were 20-24 from the free throw line.
The victory puts the Rebels into Saturday night's championship game against Cave City who was a 63-52 winner over Izard County Consolidated in the nights( other semi-final match-up.
Riverside broke a seven game losing streak with the victory over the Mustangs and increased their overall series advantage to 30-24.