Rebels win in dramatic fashion

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 7, 2012



New ORLEANS — Host Brother Martin had nationally ranked Riverside on the ropes Thursday night, as the Crusaders led throughout the second half of their clash with the Rebels —Riverside, in fact, would trail for all but 7.7 seconds after halftime.

But that was all Riverside needed to silence a frenzied gym full of Crusader supporters, as Lucas Martin’s two free throws and key defensive stop sealed a dramatic 55-54 RA victory.

“We’re not playing real well right now. We’ve got no energy,” said Riverside coach Timmy Byrd, alluding to the back-to-back East coast and West coast road trip the Rebels just concluded. “Brother Martin came out and played extremely well. But in the fourth quarter, our kids showed tonight why they’re champions.”

Riverside trailed by as many as eight midway through the final quarter, but closed the gap to one and made a stop with 25 seconds remaining. The Rebels went to Ricardo Gathers, who had scored 10 points in the period already. The Crusaders sent a hard double at him as he made his move, forcing a miss, but Martin snatched the offensive rebound. He’d miss but gather it in again and draw a foul with 7.7 left.

“To tell the truth, I that was one of the biggest rebounds of my life,” said Martin. “I just knew Rico was going to make it. When it came off, I just reacted and grabbed it.”

Martin stepped to the line and drilled a pair of makes to give RA a lead.

“No nerves at all,” Martin said. “I practice those every day. I was confident.”

Said Gathers, “He’s the hero. That was the highlight of the night.””

Brother Martin called upon Jordan Cornish for the final shot, but Martin harassed him into an off-balance, long 3-point attempt that would not draw iron.

Gathers led Riverside with 17 points. Martin scored 15 and Zelvin Smith scored 10.

Denzel Flemings scored 20 to lead the Crusaders (6-8), including four 3-pointers. Cornish scored 12 and Jabaar Singleton added 11.

Brother Martin led 27-22 at halftime and spent the third quarter holding the Rebels at bay on the strength of a potent halfcourt attack and a defensive attack that forced the Riverside into numerous turnovers.

“We thought we might be able to force some turnovers. The important thing was we finally played our brand of defense tonight,” said Brother Martin coach Bill Gallagher.

Brother Martin led by as many as nine after a pull up jumper in the lane by Singleton made it 36-27; that followed a 3 by Flemings.

Then Gathers got rolling. A one-handed jam with 3:21 left in the third cut into the lead, then he’d score on an inside move before slamming two more points home on a transition dunk. To make it 38-33. Brother Martin led 41-37 entering the fourth.

Riverside turned up the defensive pressure in the fourth and the slow tempo of the game, which had been dictated all night by Brother Martin, started to quicken.

“We had to turn up our defense,” said Gathers. “We know that when we do what we do on that end, our offense is gonna come from it.”

Said Byrd, “We started pressing full court. We held off on that because of our foul situation, but in the end we were able to go to it and create a chance to win.”

A rash of turnovers and miscues though left RA empty handed for much of the period’s early stages.

Two Singleton free throws put Martin up 47-41, and a offensive rebound and put back by Aaron Traub made it 49-41.

Gathers went to work again. He’d score inside, then Donald Thomas hit two free throws to make it 49-45. Singleton drew a foul and sank two to make it a six point game, but Gathers scored inside on consecutive possessions, converting a three-point play on the second to make it 51-50 with 2:45 left to play.

“That’s what great players do when the game’s on the line,” said Byrd.

It looked like Brother Martin might survive the run when, while leading 53-51, a John Lewis 3 rimmed out for RA, then Gathers was called for a travel on the next Rebel possession; he’d be called for a technical foul and Cornish sank a free throw to make it 54-51.

But Singleton had a chance to put things away when he got clear for a layup in transition; Martin pressured him and forced a miss, then converted a layup at the other end to pull his team within one, 54-53.

It wouldn’t be the last time he’d come up big, and Riverside comes away with a victory for it.