Riverside girls named NEA champs

Tuesday, January 3, 2017
Riverside guard Whitney Wagganor skies for two points in the NEA Tournament finals against Marmaduke.
Riverside's Bailey Fisher eyes the basket from three point land Tuesday afternoon at the Convocation Center in Jonesboro. The Lady Rebels defeated Marmaduke 43-38 to bring home the NEA Tournament Division 1 Girls Championship.

Lady Rebels clip Marmaduke 43-38 in finals

Riverside took down Marmaduke for the second time this season and in the process, dethroned the defending NEA champions, 43-38, in Tuesday afternoon's Division 1 Girls finals. Haven Robertson poured in a game high 24 points, Bailey Fisher contributed a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds while Hattie Milligan canned four consecutive critical free throws in the final 12 seconds to help pave the way for Riverside's first ever girls NEA championship.

Marmaduke gained an early advantage and held an 8-4 lead before back to back buckets by Whitney Wagganor and Fisher sliced the Lady Greyhound edge to 10-8 after the first break. Robertson caught fire in the second quarter, scoring 11 points as Riverside stormed from behind to take a 23-12 lead at the 3:41 mark. Marmaduke fought back, pulling within 24-18 at intermission when Jordan Mays and Tabitha Hyten drained back to back three pointers to close out the half.

Riverside scored the first six points of the third stanza, getting a turnaround jumper from Robertson, followed by a pair of free throws and an offensive stick-back by Fisher, to gain their biggest lead of the night, 30-18, with 5:28 left in the period. But Marmaduke's Natalie Lentz scored eight straight, including a pair of three point bombs, to help the Lady Greyhounds trim Riverside's lead to 32-26 entering the fourth quarter.

Marmaduke drew closer in the early part of the final frame, thanks to a pair of treys by Hyten that cut the Lady Rebel lead to a single point, 34-33, with 5:00 left in the game. Robertson answered with a triple of her own, but a three pointer by Lentz pulled the Lady 'Hounds to within 37-36 at the 3:25 mark. Robertson came up big with 2:02 showing on the clock, scoring on a back-door play with a nice assist from Brittany Sain as Riverside upped its lead to 39-36.

Both teams traded missed opportunities over the next minute, before Hyten missed on a potential game tying trey with 50 seconds remaining. Forced to foul, Marmaduke sent Milligan to the charity stripe where the junior guard calmly dropped in both ends of the one and one with 12 ticks left to give Riverside a two-possession lead, 41-36. Milligan hit two more free throws with one second left to set the final score.

Riverside junior Hattie Milligan brings the ball down the court while being hassled by Marmaduke's Natalie Lentz.

Milligan finished the night with four points while Sain and Wagganor had three and two points respectively. Riverside sank 9-13 foul shots and drilled four three pointers.

Lady Rebel Haven Robertson taps in two of her game high 24 points in Riverside's 43-38 victory over Marmaduke in the NEA finals.

Hyten and Lentz scored 11 points apiece for the Lady Greyhounds while Natalie Shelton and Mays added eight points each. Marmaduke struggled from the free throw line, making just 3-8 attempts. The Lady Greyhounds knocked down seven three pointers.

"This was a big win for our kids, our school and our community," said Riverside Coach Spencer Hoffman. "I am glad they all get to celebrate with us tonight. It's our first girls title, so this is really huge. We beat two very good teams back to back. Bay had beaten us twice and Marmaduke just knows how to win. We knew we would have to do everything in our power to hang on, and fortunately we did. Marmaduke gave everything they had, and we were fortunate to come out on top. I thought Bailey Fisher's rebounding and our ability defensively to keep them off balance were two of the big keys to the win. We never let them get in a good rhythm offensively. I thought we executed well defensively. Haven carried us offensively tonight; she was really clutch. Hattie clinched it for us with those big free throws at the end."

Riverside was well represented on the All-Tournament team, as Robertson, Fisher, Sain and Wagganor were all honored as NEA selections. Buffalo Island Central's Heather Sipes was also named to the NEA Tournament team.

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