Published 1:42 pm Friday, March 2, 2012
By RYAN ARENA
RESERVE — Riverside’s Donald Thomas Jr. didn’t display the giddiness that many in his position have in the past after the Rebels’ 66-59 Class 2A quarterfinal victory over Dunham Tuesday night.
“We’ve done this before,” said Thomas, who scored a team-high 19. “It’s kind of exciting now because I’m a senior. But we’re used to this.”
Indeed, the victory officially marked 2012 as the fourth year in a row that Thomas and many of his teammates punched a ticket to the Top 28 tournament.
Riverside was slated to play St. Thomas Aquinas at Southeastern on Friday night, after press time. Details of that game will be in Wednesday’s edition. The Rebels are gunning for their third consecutive Class 2A state championship, and the majority of the team’s seniors are looking for their fourth state ring after winning one as freshmen at the since-closed down Reserve Christian.
Zelvin Smith scored 16 and Ricardo Gathers netted 11 for the Rebels (32-9).
Zack Padgett (23), Jonathan Honore (17) and Jordan Lange (10) led the way for Dunham (27-8).
The Rebels outscored the Tigers 24-6 in the second quarter after the teams finished the first tied at 15. Riverside led 39-21 at halftime.
“We pushed the ball and really just started playing harder,” said Thomas. “They really couldn’t keep up with us.”
Dunham ran effective sets in the first quarter and played a patient, slow-paced game. But in the second quarter, their numerous passes around the perimeter started finding the quick hands of the Rebels, which meant transition points.
“We wanted to use our length,” said Riverside coach Timmy Byrd. “We knew they’d try to slow the game down. We did a great job of doing what we set out to do in the second quarter. In the second half, though, we got sloppy. We let them back in.”
Dunham got three quick baskets coming out of the half from Honore, Lange and Padgett that cut Riverside’s lead to 13, leading to a quick timeout by Byrd.
It didn’t quell the Tigers’ momentum, though. A bucket by Dunham’s Jesse James made it 41-31. Then Padgett nailed a 3 from the corner to make it a seven-point game. The Rebels missed two at the foul line, and Padgett answered via a driving layup. He then drew a foul and hit one of two free throws, capping an 8-0 run that left Riverside with a 41-37 advantage.
“Sometimes, it seems like our guys get bored out there,” said Byrd. “They expect to go to the Top 28, but that can be a double-edged sword. Against these good teams that we’ve been up against, you can’t afford to play less than your best. We stressed that Dunham wasn’t going away, and they didn’t.”
Riverside pushed back, and hard. Thomas canned a 3-pointer, then Smith converted a layup to make it a nine-point game. Khalea Turner made a turnaround jumper to push the Rebels out to an 11-point lead. A bucket by Lucas Martin-Julien made it 50-38.
Riverside seemed to have put things away midway through the fourth quarter, securing it’s largest lead of the final quarter when Smith scored to make it 56-42.
Dunham wouldn’t let go of dreams of an upset, however. Down 58-46, it went on a quick 8-0 run to make it 58-54 with 1:40 left. Malik Crowfield hit a dagger 3-pointer, b but Honore matched it with just under a minute left.
Von Julien drew a foul and hit one of two free throws.
The Rebels got a stop and Zelvin Smith scored on a putback at the other end. Dunham missed once more with 42 seconds left, and the Rebels had all but secured another trip to the Top 28.
“We’re obviously very happy to be going back,” said Byrd. “We haven’t played our best ball yet in these playoffs, and we’ll have to play a lot better than we did tonight.”
RIVERSIDE 73, REDEMPTORIST 62 — Gathers scored a game-high 34 points and Thomas scored 19 to lead Riverside to a second round road victory.
Seth Jackson and Taylor Armstrong each scored 16 for Redemptorist. The Rebels led 36-28 at halftime and 52-45 after three quarters.
Lucas Martin-Julien and Jordan Andrews each scored six points for the Rebels. Redemptorist finished their season at 18-12.�