Riverside wins Class 2A state championship

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 12, 2011



LAFAYETTE – Riverside Academy beat Evangel Christian, 82-61, tonight to win its second straight Class 2A state basketball championship.

The game was played in the Cajundome  on the Louisiana-Lafayette campus.

It is the ninth state championship for coach Timmy Byrd.

Junior Ricardo Gathers was named the game’s Most Valuable Player. Gathers had 18 points, 10 rebounds and two blocked shots in the game.

Zelvin Smith added 17 points and eight rebounds for the Rebels, Donald Thomas had 13 points and four steals and Lucas Martin had 12 points in the championship game.

Evangel trailed by 14 points in the first half before cutting the Riverside lead to 8 at the half, but that was as close as Evangel could get.

The Rebels led by eight to start the fourth quarter, but Riverside went on a 16-5 run in the first 2:51 of play to push the lead to 19, including a pair of transition dunks by Thomas that got the Rebel crowd going.

“It changed the momentum,” said Thomas. “I couldn’t have done it without my teammates though … our trap really frustrated them.”

“It never gets old,” said Gathers of the title win. “We know coming into every season, the goal is the state championship. As long as we finish with that, all in all, we’re happy.”

 But he also noted that a goal for next year is to push forth and win at least one national tournament. The team fell just short of that goal this year, though it did defeat two teams ranked nationally in the top 20.

“Next year, we’re definitely be pushing for national honors,” said Gathers. “No doubt.”

Both teams shot better in the second half. Evangel shot 52-percent, while the Rebels sat at 58.6 in the second half; they posted marks of 33.3 and 40 in the first half.

But each team did a lot of damage at the line as well. Evangel shot 34 free throws (making 18) and Riverside shot 39 (making 21).

The Rebels’ second leading scorer this season, Louis Dabney, finished with just nine points. Gathers also had to deal with foul trouble for much of the evening.

 But Smith, Thomas and Martin all picked up the slack with double-digit scoring efforts.

 “It doesn’t surprise us. We’ve had six guys that have scored 30 or more in a game this year,” said Byrd. “I thought we had three or four guys who could have been MVP. And Louis has been our second leading scorer all year. Today, he wasn’t concerned with scoring. These guys understand the importance of winning over individual statistics.”

Evangel held one lead on the night – 2-0. Riverside took a 4-2 lead at the 5:31 mark of the first and never trailed or was tied again. The Rebels led 18-7 after the first quarter.