(Town Crier photo/Trent Fletcher)
Riverside rolled into Thursday night's first place showdown with Earle with an opportunity to take control of the 2A-3 conference race with a win. For a half, it looked as though the Rebels would do just that as they held a 37-29 advantage. But the Bulldogs turned up the pressure in the second half and rallied for a 66-61 come from behind victory over the Rebels at Earle.
Steven Meredith poured in 14 of his game high 28 points in the decisive third quarter as the Bulldogs outscored Riverside 22-7 to turn an eight point halftime deficit into a 51-44 lead heading into the final frame.
Meredith began the third quarter with a three pointer and scored eight of Earle's first 10 points as the Bulldogs took a 39-37 lead at the 5:05 mark on an offensive stick-back by the 6'1" point guard. The Bulldogs scored the next four points to take a 43-37 lead with 3:54 left in the quarter, capping off a 14-0 run and giving Earle control of the game.
Meredith's three pointer with 26 seconds left in the quarter put Earle up by seven entering the final frame. Riverside pulled to within 51-46 to start the fourth stanza on a pair of free throws by senior Bradley Tucker, but that was as close as the Rebels would get. Earle stretched their lead to 11 points, 58-47 at the 5:37 mark, and led by as many as 13 with 1:56 to go when Daniel Weeden scored from the inside, giving the Bulldogs a 64-51 lead.
Riverside tried to rally in the last 1:00, hitting three treys, but it was too little too late as the Bulldogs held on for the win and sole possession of first place in league play.
Riverside took a 14-12 lead after the first period, thanks to a pair of three pointers by senior Casey Hook, who finished with four treys on the night and 12 points. The two teams battled on even terms throughout most of the second period. Meredith's bucket with 2:26 left in the first half tied the score at 27-27, but the Rebels outscored Earle 10-2 to close the half, capped off by a three pointer by Hook with four seconds left before intermission, giving Riverside an eight point advantage at halftime.
Earle dominated the offensive boards, claiming 25 offensive rebounds. Riverside finished the night with just 27 total rebounds, compared to Earle's 37 boards.
Joining Meredith in double figures for Earle was Weeden with 14 while Ward had 12 and McKenzie added 10. The Bulldogs hit 7-13 free throws and made three treys.
Riverside got a double-double from Glen Graham who scored 15 points while grabbing 10 rebounds. Garrett Weaver led the Rebels with 24 points while Hook finished with 12. Tucker netted five while Travis Mays scored three and Cody Richardson added two. Riverside hit 11-19 from the foul line and drilled eight three pointers.
"We got absolutely murdered on the boards tonight," said Riverside Coach Buster Campbell. "Earle had as many offensive rebounds as we had total rebounds. When you don't rebound and take care of the ball, you aren't going to win any big games, and we didn't do any of those things well tonight. I was very disappointed."
Riverside began the week with a 70-41 rout of Cross County at Caraway. Glen Graham poured in 29 points while grabbing 10 rebounds and blocking five shots to lead the Rebels. Cody Richardson netted 12 points while Garrett Weaver chipped in 11 more.
Jake Pierce led Cross County with 13 points.
In junior high action, Riverside rolled over Earle 52-36.
Chris Hood led Riverside with 13 points while Jake Love and Josh Anderson added 12 points apiece. Morgan Fletcher and Luke Moyer scored six points each, Jake Emery tallied two while Cole Winford added one. Riverside hit 11-20 free throws and made three treys.
Riverside also defeated Cross County 49-38.
The Rebels will return to action Tuesday night when they travel to Marked Tree before hosting Bay Friday night at Lake City.