Town Crier Sports Staff
Riverside's Junior Lady Rebels exceeded everyone's preseason expectations as they advanced to the finals of the 2A-3 District Championship round. The Lady Rebels needed to do something no other conference team had accomplished this year in order to win the title, and that was to beat league champion Earle.
But the Lady Bulldogs hung tough all night and held off a determined Riverside team to claim an exciting 37-36 victory Saturday night at Monette.
Riverside grabbed their only lead of the game when Michelle Cobb scored the game's first bucket, but the Lady Bulldogs pulled ahead 4-2 on a 10-footer by Cymone Poole and never let the Lady Rebels catch up the rest of the way.
Earle closed the first period leading 6-3 and extended their lead in the second quarter to 13-8 with a three point play by Poole at the 4:16 mark. Neither team could find the basket the rest of the half, with the only points coming from Riverside's Kyley Campbell on a pair of free throws, leaving Earle with a 13-10 halftime advantage.
Earle stretched their lead in the third quarter to 23-16, but the Lady Rebels fought back, closing the quarter with a 10-3 run to pull to within 26-23 entering the final frame. The Lady Rebels used a pair of Campbell buckets and two treys by Cobb to cut into the Bulldog lead.
Poole began the fourth quarter with an inside basket, but Campbell responded with an eight footer, keeping the Bulldog lead at three. The Lady Bulldogs retained the three point advantage until Magan Wells scored on an offensive stickback with 2:59 to go, pulling the Rebels to within 30-29.
The Lady Bulldogs ran off the next four points on a Brianna Gillion lay-up and an inside bucket from Poole to extend the Earle lead to 34-29 at the 1:02 mark. Wells scored from the inside again to cut the lead to 34-31 with 50 seconds to go, but Poole answered with a bucket of her own to give Earle a 36-31 lead at the 25 second mark.
Taylor Boness' 10-footer with nine seconds left gave Riverside one last chance, cutting the Bulldog lead to 36-33. Rucks hit 1-2 free throws to push the Bulldog lead to 37-33 with eight seconds left, setting up a wild finish.
Cobb drained a long three pointer as the buzzer sounded to apparently give Earle a 37-36 victory. But after a long discussion by the officials, one second was put back on the game clock. Earle tried to inbound the ball, but the inbound pass was deflected off a Lady Bulldog, giving Riverside one last chance with .04 seconds remaining.
Riverside set up for one last play, but their inbound pass was picked off and Earle held on to claim the championship.
Poole led all scorers with 19 points. The Lady Bulldogs hit 6-11 free throws and made one three pointer.
Cobb led Riverside with 14 points, including three treys while Campbell also scored in double digits with 12 points. Wells had six, Boness tallied three while Ashley Calvert added one point. Riverside hit 9-16 from the foul line and finished with three treys.
"We played well," said Riverside Coach Greg Rainwater. "Earle had not lost a conference game all season and this was as close as anyone had played them. We had our opportunities, but we didn't capitalize on enough of them. But I was proud of the kids. They battled and never gave up. I have been proud of them all year. At one time, we were 7-11 and we finished 18-14. They have only lost two games since Christmas. They have come a long way. I haven't coached a team that has come as far over the course of a season as this one has. This group of kids have shown a lot of class all season and it made my job the best there is."
Riverside advanced to the finals by knocking off Crowley's Ridge Academy 35-26 Tuesday night in the first round. Ashley Calvert led Riverside with 12 points while Michelle Cobb added 10. Magan Wells tallied six points, Taylor Boness tallied four while Rebecca Frayer contributed two and Kyley Campbell added one.
Riverside squeezed by Turrell 34-32 in the semi-finals as Courtney Thomas scored 15 points and Michelle Cobb added 10. Ashley Calvert scored five points while Magan Wells added four. Riverside hit 7-14 free throws and made three treys, two by Thomas.
Erica Chance led Turrell with 14 points.