Rebels down Purple Knights in finale

Published 12:00 am Friday, February 17, 2012



Some teams like to take it a bit easy just before the postseason, but don’t count Riverside or St. Augustine among them.

Each ranked at the top of their respective classification, the Rebels and the Purple Knights squared off to close the regular season Wednesday night. The game belonged to Riverside, led by Ricardo Gathers’ 21 points, as it came away with an 83-77 victory in its home gym.

It was a battle of current state champions, as the Rebels won Class 2A and St. Augustine won Class 5A a season ago. The Purple Knights have since moved to Class 4A.

It’s been a productive close to the season for the Rebels; the victory, coupled with another over fellow Class 2A contender John Curtis, lifted Riverside from No. 7 in the power rankings to No. 2, just behind the Patriots.

“Injuries are part of the game and both teams were dealing. This was a good win for us,” said Riverside coach Timmy Byrd. “St. Augustine still boasts a very talented team.”

Eighth graders Malik Crowfield and Khalea Turner each continued his recent strong play for the Rebels. Crowfield scored 16 and Turner added 12.

Senior Donald Thomas Jr. also scored 12 for Riverside.

“It’s what our program has been built on, playing very young kids and not using youth as an excuse,” said Byrd. “Our seniors have really embraced these guys.”

Craig Victor led St. Augustine with 26 points. Deion Taylor added 21.

Both teams entered hamstrung by injuries. St. Augustine played without starters Javan Felix and Roland Daniels, while Riverside was missing a starter in John Lewis, and two if considering Louis Dabney, who has missed almost the entire season with a torn ACL.

“What’s good for us is we’ve developed a lot of depth,” said Byrd. “We go 11-12 deep and at this point we’ve got a good mix of senior leadership and youth … When we lost Louis, we had to replace 20 points per game… We’re knocking down our threes now, and when we do that, we’re very difficult to defend.”

Much as they did against Curtis last week, the Rebels led throughout and shook off a late rally. Riverside pushed its lead to a game-high 13 early in the fourth quarter after scores by Crowfield, Gathers and Thomas.

“I thought we remained in control throughout, but be hit some big shots there and really started to separate ourselves,” said Byrd.

St. Augustine got hot from the outside though, and took advantage of a cluster of Rebel turnovers to cut the Riverside lead to four with less than 30 seconds left.

The Purple Knights would get no closer, however.

The Rebels enter the playoffs with an overall record of 29-9. It was only the third loss on the season for St. Augustine (31-3). ꆱ