Rebels gain State tourney berth, end legendary Coach Morgan Gilbert's career
Riverside fought off a late Tuckerman rally to hold on for a 69-59 victory over the Bulldogs, ending the 49-year career of coaching legend Morgan Gilbert in the first round of the 2A Regional Tournament Friday afternoon at Sloan Hendrix High School in Imboden. The victory catapulted the Rebels to their third straight state tournament appearance, beginning this week at Marmaduke.
The two teams fought to a 10-10 deadlock after the opening period of play. Riverside broke a 17-17 tie late in the second stanza on an offensive stick-back by Alteeno Sain and a three pointer from Logan Meurer, giving the Rebels a 24-19 halftime advantage.
The Bulldogs battled back in the third period, slicing the Rebel lead to two with an inside bucket by Matt Slagley at the 5:46 mark. But Riverside responded, scoring seven straight points to grab a 35-26 lead with 3:11 left in the quarter. Cade Niswonger drained a three pointer for the Bulldogs to cut the lead to six, but the Rebels closed with a 10-4 run to take a 45-33 advantage into the final frame.
Riverside appeared poised to put the game away, taking a 50-35 lead on a long three pointer by junior guard Caleb Waugh with 7:00 left in the contest, but the Bulldogs went on a three point barrage of their own, drilling four treys over the next 2:30, including three by Niswonger to pull the Bulldogs to within 54-51 with 4:00 to go.
The Rebels responded with a 6-0 run capped off by Sain's three point play at the 2:35 mark to go up 60-51. Sain added back to back baskets in the last 2:00 as Riverside slammed the door, punching their ticket to another state tournament bid.
"I hope this is a good omen," said Riverside Coach Buster Campbell. "The last time we went to three straight state tournaments we advanced to the finals. Hopefully we can do it again. This was a nice win and it's a great feeling. I feel like this is the strongest of our last three teams. I hated it for Morgan (Gilbert) tonight, but the game was more about Riverside and Tuckerman. He's a special guy and I don't think anyone else will ever do what he's done."
"I feel like our kids gave me everything they had, and I don't have any regrets," said Gilbert. "Our goal was to win 20 games and make it to the regionals and we accomplished that. You know you have some emotions with it being your last game, but I knew going in that this would be my last year so I've been bracing for it. The kids had a great year. I wish we could have won today but it's all got to end sometime."
Riverside (22-13) was led by Meurer, who pumped in a game high 25 points. Sain was close behind, scoring 21, while Waugh and Kollin Stone added nine points apiece. Dylan Wright chipped in five. The Rebels hit six of 12 foul shots and made three treys.
Niswonger led the Bulldogs with 22 points while Spencer Shannon added 20. Tuckerman hit 10-12 free throws and drained six three pointers on the night.
Riverside never got going in its semifinal matchup against Cedar Ridge, dropping a 73-51 decision to the Timberwolves Saturday afternoon.
The Rebels took a 1-0 lead on a free throw by Alteeno Sain, but that was Riverside's only highlight of the afternoon. Hillcrest went on a 10-0 run and closed the quarter with a 17-5 lead behind the sharp shooting of freshman guard Cade Crabtree who scored 11 first period points.
Hillcrest continued to pour it on in the second quarter and took a 28-9 halftime advantage. The Rebels finally got going in the third period, but could never mount a serious challenge, and trailed 47-27 after three periods of play.
Logan Meurer led Riverside with 13 points while Jacob Jordan came off the bench to chip in 12.
Spencer Reaves led Hillcrest with 24 points. Cade Crabtree scored 21 while Cole Crabtree added 20.
The loss dropped the Rebels into the consolation bracket, where they faced Marked Tree Monday afternoon.