Town Crier Sports Staff
Riverside's Lady Rebels found the third time the charm, posting a second half rally to beat arch rival Buffalo Island Central 49-44 Thursday night in the semi-finals of the 2A-3 District Tournament at Caraway.
The Mustangs held a 17-12 first period lead before taking a 27-25 edge into the dressing room at the half. But the second half belonged to the Lady Rebels, as Riverside rallied in the third quarter to pull ahead 38-34 entering the final frame.
Riverside failed to score a basket in the fourth quarter, but won the game at the free throw line, connecting on 11-18 from the foul stripe. BIC came up with a pair of fourth quarter baskets, but managed to get to the charity stripe just five times, connecting on four.
The Lady Mustangs began the fourth quarter with Jessica Shepard hitting four straight free throws to pull BIC to within 40-38 with 4:33 remaining. But Riverside answered with a pair of free throws from Brianna Driver to push the lead back to 42-38 at the 3:04 mark.
Shepard drove the lane for a bucket with 2:40 left to cut the Riverside lead to two, but Kelsey Turner answered by hitting both ends of a double bonus, giving the Lady Rebels a 44-40 lead with 2:15 left.
Shepard went to the line with 1:57 to go, but missed the front end of the one and one and when the Lady Rebels came away with the rebound, BIC was forced to foul, sending Riverside's Morgan Emery to the line to shoot the double bonus. Emery connected on 1-2 attempts to give Riverside a 45-40 lead with 55 seconds left.
BIC's Sammi Fowler drove the lane for two to cut the Lady Rebel lead to 45-42 at the 47 second mark, but Riverside's Katey Campbell made 1-2 free throws with 34 seconds to go to push the Rebel lead back to 46-42. Fowler struck again with a 12 foot jumper with 19 seconds left to cut the Riverside lead to 46-44.
BIC fouled Campbell with 16 seconds left. Campbell failed to convert on both free throws but Riverside's Marisa Johnson came away with the rebound and was fouled. The 5'11" senior sank the front end of the double bonus but misfired on the second attempt. The Lady Mustangs grabbed the rebound but immediately turned the ball over and were forced to foul on Riverside's ensuing possession, sending Johnson back to the line. Johnson calmly sank both ends of the double bonus to secure the Lady Rebel victory and push Riverside into the championship round.
"We did some things better tonight against BIC than we had in our previous meetings, and one of those things was hitting our free throws," said Riverside Coach Greg Rainwater. "We were able to have the lead in the fourth quarter, which allowed us to spread the floor and slow them down. They are just a better team at running up and down the floor than we are. The pace was more conducive to what we wanted to do. Our guards did a great job tonight of taking care of the basketball. We did a much better job in the second half containing Shepard, who is the best player in the league. When you take care of the basketball and make your free throws, you have a great chance of winning. Katey Campbell really kept us in the game in the first half, and Marisa Johnson had a big game. This was a great win for her, being a senior."
"It was a great win," said Riverside's lone senior Marisa Johnson. "We had not beaten BIC once this year. I am so proud of the team. We came ready to play and were determined we would not get beat this time. We were not going to let it happen again."
"It's hard to beat a good team three times," said BIC Coach Stan Fowler. "Riverside had a really good night. We only played two games in the last two weeks, which made us hungry, but we were a little out of sync. I thought our effort was there tonight, but we didn't shoot the ball well enough to win. But you can't take anything away from Riverside. They played a great game tonight."
Shepard led BIC with 20 points while Fowler chipped in 12. Kasey Garrett and Lauryn Smith scored five points apiece while Ashley Tate finished with two. The Lady Mustangs hit 6-9 from the foul line and made six three pointers.
Campbell led Riverside with 15 points and grabbed seven rebounds. Johnson scored 11 points and pulled down eight boards while Driver also scored 11. Morgan Emery had six points and six assists, Kelsey Turner tallied five, while Kailey Holt added one point. The Lady Rebels hit 18-33 from the free throw line and hit three treys.
BIC will enter the regional tournament at Rector as the number three seed from the 2A-3 Conference and will face Tuckerman, the number two seed from the 2A-2 conference.