Riverside Wins NEA in 80-79 Overtime Thriller
Do you believe in miracles? You can bet your bottom dollar the Riverside Rebels do. Riverside reached deep into their pockets and picked out not one but two of them as they plucked the crown jewel of all Northeast Arkansas tournament championships with an improbable and heart-stopping 80-79 victory over Cave City to claim the 59th annual NEA Invitational Tournament Class A-AA title Saturday night at the Convocation Center in Jonesboro.
Sophomore guard Garrett Weaver answered the Rebel fans' first prayer when he hit an unbelievable turnaround three pointer off the right wing as time expired in regulation to tie the game 70-70, sending the two teams into overtime. It looked as though Weaver's shot might be in vain, but junior forward Jordan Adcock had a miracle of his own up his sleeve. Down by one with time running out in the overtime period, senior point guard Tyler Timms streaked down the left sideline and found Adcock flashing toward the free throw line. Timms then rifled the pass to Adcock, who pump faked his man and drove into the lane, lofting a one handed leaner over the rim as time expired, sending Rebel fans into delirium.
It was Riverside's first ever NEA Championship since the consolidation of the Lake City and Caraway School Districts. The Lake City Catfish claimed their one and only NEA title in 1960 while the Caraway Tigers, under current Riverside Head Coach Buster Campbell, won the NEA crown in 1980.
Riverside trailed 70-67 after Cave City's Dustin Davidson gave the Cavemen the lead with 29.9 seconds remaining in regulation with a pair of free throws. All looked lost when the Rebels missed four straight shots on the ensuing possession. But Riverside got one last chance when a loose ball went out of bounds off one of the Cavemen to give the Rebels one last gasp with 0.7 seconds to go. Riverside called timeout to set up for one last shot and placed four players outside the three point arc. Cave City extended their defense and pushed the Rebels even further out, but Cody Richardson found Weaver just in time to prevent a five second infraction. Weaver grabbed the inbounds pass, turned to his right, and fired a high arching shot that found nothing but the bottom of the net as the Convocation Center crowd erupted.
"My first thought when I got the ball was just to catch it and shoot it," said Weaver. I thought the shot was short when I let it go. And when it went through, I didn't know what to think. This was a great experience hitting the biggest shot of my life in my first NEA Tournament."
The Rebels jumped to a quick four point lead, 76-72, with 2:26 left in the overtime. Cave City pulled within 76-74 on a 10-foot jumper by 6'1" junior Dilon Willmuth with 1:35 to go. The Rebels extended their lead to four again, 78-74, when Weaver and Adcock combined to hit 2-4 free throws. But Cave City answered when 5'9" point guard Jonathan Fowler nailed a three pointer from the left wing to pull the Cavemen back to one, 78-77, with 31.7 seconds remaining. Fowler then picked Adcock's pocket, and after a missed shot, Jordan Smith gave Cave City a 79-78 lead with a stick back bucket at the 14 second mark, setting up Adcock's last second heroics.
"When I got the pass from Tyler, I glanced at the clock and saw that I had time to drive to the basket. I thought the ball had a good chance to go in when I let it go, and thank goodness it did," said an excited Adcock.
Believe it or not, there was almost a full game played before the final frantic minutes as Cave City jumped on the Rebels, who were emotionally drained from their exasperating semi-final victory the previous night against arch-rival Buffalo Island Central. The Cavemen came out smoking from the field and led 23-19 after the first quarter when Jared Harris hit Cave City's third trey of the period.
Cave City continued their torrid shooting in the second quarter and built their lead to 45-32 at the half. The Cavemen looked to have the game in total control when they went up 49-32 with 6:49 left in the third quarter. But Riverside began to chip away at the lead. Timms, who kept the Rebels in the game with three treys of his own in the first half, hit his fourth trey of the game at the 3:18 mark to pull the Rebels to within single digits, 51-42. The two teams traded baskets the rest of the quarter and Cave City held a 63-54 lead entering the final frame.
The Rebels' full court press finally began to wear down the Cavemen as Riverside continued to chop away at the Cave City lead. The Rebels went on an 8-2 run to open the fourth period to pull within 65-62 with 4:17 left in regulation. Weaver's three pointer with 1:53 left pulled the Rebels to within 68-67 and set up what would turn out to be two of the biggest shots in Rebel history.
"Riverside did what needed to be done at the right time," said Cave City Coach Mark Smith. "At the end of regulation, we couldn't do any more than what we did. We forced them plum out to the 35 foot line. I couldn't ask any more of my guys than what they did. Adcock did exactly what you are supposed to do down one, and that is take it to the rim. Riverside is a good bunch. I am disappointed that we lost, but at the same time, it was a really good high school basketball game and I am glad to see that my guys can play with the ability that was out there tonight."
"I don't know how you rank this week," stated Riverside Head Coach Buster Campbell. "I told Coach Kevin Hall, you can go another 30 years and never have another week like this again. We had a tough road. We had East Poinsett County, who shouldn't have been in the seed they were in. We had Sloan Hendrix, who is a really good ball club. Then we got BIC, ranked number one in the state. We turn around with Cave City, who is 14-3. But these kids hung in there, and, there is an element of luck in that we hit a tough shot to send it into overtime and hit a shot at the buzzer. But we battled back and put ourselves in the position that those shots meant something. The kids came back and played hard. We didn't set up anything on the last possession. I have always been a believer in not taking a time out and instead just going with it. Do you think if we had taken a time out there is anyway their defense would have let us have that last shot? Other coaches see it differently, and it doesn't always work out for us, but it did tonight. And our fans are the best, always have been. Don't get me wrong, other schools have great fans too, but as long as we play hard, we don't have to be 18-3. We can be 12-10 and our fans will still be behind us. I am proud to be the Riverside coach, I always have been."
(This is our third tournament championship," Campbell said. "They are all nice tournaments, the Williams Baptist, the Gerald Jennings, and the grand-daddy of them all, the NEA. But I had rather win the NEA than any of them, other than the state."
"I was so proud we got four players on the all-tournament team," continued Campbell. "But in my book Cody Richardson and M.J. Emery could have been on there too for their defensive performance Friday night alone. Tyler carried us in the first half tonight. Weaver had a great week. Adcock hit some big shots and really hit the boards. Glen made some nice post moves. I have always been a seven or eight player coach, so I really appreciate the other kids who don't get to play. They come to practice every day and sometimes set the tone for what goes on. I told the players I didn't know who would make the all-tournament team, but it didn't matter, because we all won this baby together."
Adcock, who led the Rebels with 23 points, also had seven rebounds and four assists. Weaver finished with 18 points, 15 of those coming in the fourth quarter and the overtime. Glen Graham scored 18 points and grabbed nine rebounds while Timms scored 14 and dished out five assists. Richardson pitched in five points while Michael Lawrence added two. The Rebels were 25-53 from the field, including 9-24 from beyond the three point arc. The Rebels finished 19-32 from the foul line.
Cave City was led by Justin Barr who scored 16 points, while Brandon West scored 13 and Jordan Smith added 12. The Cavemen were 25-57 from the field and 8-15 from behind the three point line. Cave City shot 19-27 from the foul stripe.
Riverside placed four players on the all-tournament team: Tyler Timms, Garrett Weaver, Glen Graham, and Jordan Adcock. Cave City had three players: Jordan Smith, Justin Barr, and Jonathan Fowler.