Riverside found themselves with their backs against the wall Wednesday night when they faced the Walnut Ridge Bobcats in the quarter-finals of the 3AA North District Tournament at Marmaduke.
With their season hanging in the balance, the Rebels were playing a team that had beaten them both times during the regular season and entered the game without their captain and leader, senior point guard Tyler Timms, who tore a ligament in his foot in Monday night's game with Rector.
Riverside responded by knocking off one of the league's hottest teams as they rolled to a 66-47 victory and a spot in the Region 4 Tournament February 23 at Earle.
As Timms watched anxiously from the sidelines, his teammates refused to let their captain's season end as they played inspired basketball from start to finish.
The Rebels clung to a 14-10 first quarter lead and held a 27-23 edge at intermission. It looked as though the Rebels would blow the game open in the third quarter as they built a 16 point lead, 43-27 with 2:17 left in the period. But the Bobcats refused to quit, and outscored the Rebels 6-1 to close the quarter with Riverside leading 44-33.
Walnut Ridge, which had dominated the offensive boards in the first two meetings between the two teams, got one of their few offensive stick backs in this game when Seth Chamblee grabbed a missed free throw by teammate Cody White and hit the put back, cutting the Rebel lead to 44-36 with 7:57 remaining in the game.
Junior forward Michael Lawrence came up big for the Rebels by putting in three consecutive stick-backs of his own to keep the Rebels in front. Walnut Ridge would make one last charge as White and Chris Logan buried back to back three pointers to cut the Rebel lead to 52-44 with 5:16 to go. But that would be as close as the Bobcats would get as Riverside closed with a 14-3 run to cap off the win and end Walnut Ridge's Cinderella season.
"I told Tyler this would not be his last game," said sophomore guard Garrett Weaver. "I told him it wasn't ending here," added Weaver, who finished with 17 points on the night.
"This is a big win," said Riverside Coach Buster Campbell. "We are tickled to be in the Regionals. I thought we controlled the tempo and really attacked the basket well. We got some fast break points. I just thought the kids did a good job of pulling together with Tyler having to miss the game. Cody Richardson did a good job in Tyler's absence. The whole team stepped their game up and got on the boards. We did a good job of limiting Walnut Ridge to one shot. We got some big steals that led to some easy baskets. I thought Weaver and Adcock (Jordan) who had both struggled in the previous two games against Walnut Ridge played their normal games tonight and played like we are capable of playing."
"It just wasn't our night," said Walnut Ridge Coach Ray Scott. "Our kids were a little bit off. Their big kid (Graham) hurt us. He is a good player. We've been playing so well. I was just hoping we could get one more win, but it just didn't happen. They are a good bunch of kids and I am really proud of them."
Scott, who came out of retirement to coach the Bobcats this season, said he would make a decision about whether to return for next season in the next three to four weeks. "I will make a decision in a few weeks about coaching next year," said Scott. "We have everyone coming back, so whoever coaches them will have a good bunch. We really had a good January and February. I really enjoyed it."
Glen Graham came up big on the inside for Riverside as he led the Rebels with 18 points. Jordan Adcock pitched in 16 more as the Rebels advanced to the semi-finals against top seeded Buffalo Island Central. Lawrence came off the bench to score seven while Cody Richardson chipped in six. Senior co-captain M.J. Emery added two. The Rebels finished 14-20 from the foul line and hit four three pointers.
Seth Chamblee led Walnut Ridge with 12 points while Cameron Kelly added 10. Walnut Ridge was 5-10 from the foul stripe and also hit four treys on the night.
Riverside advanced to their quarter-final match-up with Walnut Ridge as they outscored Rector 18-3 in the fourth quarter on their way to a 56-32 victory in Monday night's opening round action. Glen Graham paced the Rebels with 14 points while Garrett Weaver and Jordan Adcock scored 12 and 11 points respectively. Tyler Timms tallied seven points, M.J. Emery netted four, while Michael Lawrence, Cody Richardson, Casey Hook and Caleb McCluskey chipped in two points apiece.
Jake Holcomb led Rector with eight points.
The game was tied after the first quarter 10-10, before Riverside pulled to a 31-22 halftime lead. The Rebels went into the final quarter holding a 38-29 advantage.