Lady Rebels punch ticket to NEA finals -- Outduel top seeded Bay 44-39
The third time proved the charm for Riverside's Lady Rebels. After losing twice to Bay earlier in the regular season, Riverside executed their game plan to perfection and held off the Lady Yellowjackets 44-39 in the semifinals of the 70th annual NEA Tournament in Jonesboro. The victory sends Riverside into Tuesday afternoon's finals against old nemesis Marmaduke.
Bay jumped on Riverside early and held their lead until Bailey Fisher's three point bomb with 21 seconds left in the opening stanza gave the Lady Rebels their first lead of the game, 12-11.
Tot Diaz put Bay back on top with a trey to begin the second period, but Fisher answered with another triple, giving Riverside a 15-14 edge. The Lady Rebels would not trail again. Riverside steadily increased their advantage throughout the second quarter and took a 24-18 lead into the dressing room at intermission.
Riverside upped its advantage to double digits when Brittany Sain canned a long three pointer at the 4:18 mark of the third period to put the Lady Rebels ahead 31-21. Bay fought back, outscoring Riverside 10-4, and sliced the lead to 35-31 when Abby Frisby buried a trey with just two seconds left before the end of the third stanza.
Haven Robertson's driving bucket to begin the final frame pushed the Lady Rebel lead to six, and Riverside maintained a two-possession advantage throughout most of the fourth quarter until Sarah Blackman's steal and layup closed the gap to 42-39 with 38 seconds left. Bay fouled Robertson with 15 seconds left on the clock, and the all-state junior calmly knocked down both ends of the one and one to seal the victory.
Riverside controlled the tempo throughout the contest, frustrating the Yellowjackets, who prefer a faster paced attack.
"I knew the effort would be there today because this is a rivalry game," said Riverside Coach Spencer Hoffman. "But the thing I had to question was could we execute against their pressure, and I thought we did that today. We shot 48 percent from the field and 44 percent from beyond the three point line. We also hit over 80 percent of our foul shots. We can't play much better than that statistically. We did a good job of using their aggressiveness to our advantage. We caught them helping a few times and we were able to knock down some 3's. We were also able to attack the gaps and drive to the hole and get some baskets. Hats off to Bay. They have a great program and Coach Watson does a great job. But tonight, we just executed."
Fisher led the Lady Rebels with 15 points while Robertson dropped in 12. Sain scored seven while Hattie Milligan and Whitney Wagganer added five points apiece. Riverside sank 14-17 foul shots and drilled four three pointers.
Whitlee Layne paced Bay with 15 while Frisby added 10 points. The Lady Yellowjackets struggled from the foul stripe, hitting just 8-15 attempts while making three treys on the day.
Riverside began the tournament by trouncing Cross County 60-34 Tuesday morning. The Lady Rebels trailed 10-9 after the opening eight minutes of play, before outscoring the Lady Thunderbirds 22-4 in the second quarter to bolt ahead 31-14 at the half. Riverside took a 45-27 advantage into the final frame.
Robertson scored a game high 18 points to lead the Lady Rebels. Sain netted 10, Fisher tallied nine, Wagganer contributed eight, Lotti Hoffman had seven while Milligan and Carson Smith chipped in three points apiece. Briley Douglas added two points. Riverside canned 14-18 free throws and downed seven three pointers.
The Lady Rebels took care of Walnut Ridge in quarterfinal action, mercy ruling the Lady Bobcats 65-26 Thursday. Riverside held a slim 15-14 edge after the first quarter, thanks to consecutive treys by Robertson, Fisher and Sain to close out the period. The Lady Rebels built their lead to 34-17 in the second quarter behind Robertson's 10 points. Riverside stretched their advantage to 30 points, outscoring Walnut Ridge 19-5 in the third stanza, and took a 53-22 lead into the final frame.
Robertson led four Lady Rebels in double digits with 19 points. Wagganer scored 13 while Fisher and Sain racked up 12 points apiece. Mallory Felton netted four, Milligan had three while Hoffman chipped in two points. Riverside finished 8-10 from the foul stripe and sank 11 three pointers, five by Robertson and four from Fisher.
Megan Jared led the Lady Bobcats with 13 points.
Tipoff for Riverside's championship game against Marmaduke is set for 4:30 p.m.