Town Crier Sports Staff
Riverside looked to be well on their way to the quarter-finals of the 2A State Tournament Wednesday night at Jessieville, leading 58-53 with only 1:45 to go. But what transpired in the closing seconds left the Rebels heartbroken, as Stephens pulled off an improbable 65-59 come from behind win, ending Riverside's season, including the high school careers of seven seniors.
The Rebels began the fourth quarter trailing the Roadrunners 47-42, but four straight three pointers to begin the final period gave Riverside a 54-49 lead with 4:37 to go in the game. Garrett Weaver began the three point barrage before Travis Mays knocked down back to back treys. Weaver completed the three point onslaught, forcing the Roadrunners to call a time out.
The Rebel defense held Stephens scoreless for over 3:30 before Marshun Scott scored on an offensive stickback with 3:05 to go in the game to cut the lead to 54-51. Stephens' Ed Curry picked up a steal and scored on a driving lay-up, cutting the Rebel lead to 54-53, but Riverside scored the game's next four points, all from the foul line, to take a five point lead, 58-53, with 1:45 left in the game.
Stephens began their rally with an offensive stickback at the 1:20 mark, cutting the Rebel lead to 58-55.
Riverside's Cody Richardson went to the foul line to shoot the double bonus at the 1:14 mark and connected on 1-2 to give the Rebels a 59-55 lead, but it would be Riverside's last point of the game.
Stephens answered immediately when Curry raced the length of the floor for an uncontested lay-up to pull the Roadrunners to within 59-57 with 1:07 to go. The next 67 seconds became a nightmare for Riverside as Stephens used a bump and run defense to come away with a pair of turnovers to turn the tide.
Chauncy Richard got the first steal and raced in for a lay-up to tie the score at 59-59 with 44 seconds remaining. The Rebels turned the ball over again on their next possession when it appeared Weaver was fouled bringing the ball up the floor. But in the scramble for the loose ball, the 5'10" senior was whistled for the foul, sending Cortez McBride to the foul line, where the junior connected on both ends of the one and one, putting Stephens ahead 61-59 with 30 seconds left in the game.
The Rebel bench thought a foul should have been whistled on Stephens on Riverside's next possession. Instead, Stephens came away with another steal and Scott converted an offensive stickback into two points, giving the Roadrunners a 63-59 lead with eight seconds to go. A technical foul on Riverside Coach Buster Campbell sent Curry to the line, where the junior connected on both free throws, setting the final margin at 65-59.
Riverside led 16-14 at the end of the first period after building a 16-8 lead behind a pair of three pointers by Weaver. The two teams battled back and forth in the second period as the lead changed hands on several occasions before Stephens took a 32-30 advantage into the dressing room at the half.
The Roadrunners led the entire third quarter, building as much as a ten point lead, 43-33, at the 2:24 mark. Riverside's 6'8" senior post player Glen Graham sat out much of the quarter with foul problems, but the Rebels got a boost from sophomore Blake Hogan off the bench, who came in and scored a pair of inside buckets to help rally the Rebels to within five points by the end of the period.
"First of all, these kids have had great careers," said Riverside Coach Buster Campbell. "They are winners, not losers. We didn't take care of business or those calls at the end wouldn't have mattered. We were tackled at half court near the end of the game and there was no call. I wasn't going to get a technical until the game was out of reach, but I felt like I had to do that to let the official know that he had made the wrong call. I thought he swallowed his whistle at the end and in my opinion, he should never be allowed to officiate again. He should have to go into the dressing room and look at those kids. But our kids played extremely hard, so let's not make that the focus of this story. We missed some big free throws and we just couldn't get a call. But it was a great season. The kids played their butts off, and I am just so proud of them."
Riverside finished the night just 7-14 from the foul line, but connected on 8-13 from beyond the three point arc. Weaver led the Rebels with 25 points, including six treys. Graham closed his career with 10 points. Cody Richardson, Travis Mays and Bradley Tucker tallied six points apiece while Hogan pitched in four and Casey Hook added two.
The Roadrunners were led by Curry who scored 24 points while Scott added 22 more and Richard tallied 15. Stephens finished 12-17 from the foul line and hit three treys.