RA beats shooting woes to top Curtis

Published 11:45 pm Friday, February 1, 2013



RESERVE — Riverside guard Herb McGee takes it personally when people characterize his Rebels as a finesse team that wins on the back of its 3-point shooting ability.

He and his teammates made an extremely persuasive counterargument to that sentiment on their home floor Thursday night in front of a jam-packed crowd.

Riverside fought through a night of offensive struggles to rally past John Curtis in a much-hyped state championship rematch between the teams, taking the win in a 44-41 District 10-2A slugfest.

“People say we’re just a 3-point shooting team. That that’s what makes us win. It’s not,” said McGee, who struggled to find his offense but kept explosive Curtis guard Richard Durant in check. “Playing great man to man defense, smart team defense, we can rely on that every night. Tonight, we got our offense going through our defense. We made a couple of big steals and ran off of that.”

Curtis (19-4, 5-1) led 35-26 midway through the fourth quarter before Riverside (18-4, 5-0) finished the game on an 18-6 run, highlighted by eight Von Julien points and two key buckets by Deuce Wallace.

“This team finds a way to win, and tonight it was through its defense,” said Riverside coach Timmy Byrd. “Offensively, we weren’t clicking. I’m proud of them. The five we had out there in the fourth, each made big, impact plays.”

It was the first meeting between the teams since Curtis downed the Rebels in last season’s Class 2A final, 57-48. The teams split last season with two wins each over four games and shared district championship honors. Riverside entered the game ranked second in the LSWA Class 2A poll, while Curtis was ranked fourth.

But the victory was perhaps most notable for the way it came. Riverside won despite putting up its second lowest scoring output of the season (after a 44-43 loss to Karr). The Rebels scored just 10 points in the first half and just two in the second quarter en route to a 20-10 halftime deficit.

Shockingly, one of the state’s most proficient shooting teams went 0-18 on 3-pointers in the first half.

“It was a very different kind of game,” said Riverside coach Timmy Byrd. “That’s the first time in my coaching career that we’ve only scored two points in a quarter. This is a great crowd, a great atmosphere, but it’s a young team of freshman and sophomores and we reacted like that. We came out tight.”

Added Wallace, “We’re one of the best shooting teams in the state. We knew that wasn’t going to continue all night.”

Riverside scored more points in the fourth quarter (23) than the previous three quarters combined.

The rally began when Julien banked in a runner with 3:57 remaining to make it 35-28. Durant missed the front end of a one-and-one, then Julien scored on a layup to cut the deficit to five. Moments later, it was Julien with a steal, setting up his own layup-and-one to cut things to 35-33 with 2:50 left, in the process fouling out Curtis’ Raekwon James.

“We couldn’t play worse than we did in the first half. It was just a matter of confidence,” said Julien. “We knew we could play with them, but we needed something to raise our confidence level and get us playing like we know we can.”

Donte Jones missed the front end of another one-and-one for Curtis, and Malik Crowfield drew a foul at the other end and sank two free throws to tie the game with 2:14 left.

Twenty seconds later, Wallace canned a 3-pointer to make it 38-35, giving Riverside its first lead since 4-2.

“That was definitely the biggest shot I’ve made all year,” said Wallace. “We weren’t going down without a fight tonight. I knew I had to step up and knock that shot down.”

Added Byrd, “Deuce has ice water in his veins.”

Durant went to the line and sank two free throws to pull Curtis within one. But the Rebels again responded via Wallace, whom Jordan Andrews found off of a drive for an open layup.  

Riverside again stopped Curtis and punched a ball loose to Julien in transition, who pushed the lead to five by scoring on a layup.

Jones scored for Curtis to cut the lead to 3, then Durant and Crowfield traded makes at the line.

With 22 seconds left, Curtis had one last possession to tie. Durant missed a 3-pointer, then another and the ball went out of bounds off the Rebels with 5.3 seconds left. The Patriots wouldn’t get another shot off; the Rebels swarmed the ball on the inbounds and Julien intercepted a pass with two seconds left to seal the victory.

Julien led Riverside with 13 points. Andrews scored 11. Crowfield added 10.

Durant paced Curtis with 13 points. Issac Banks scored 12.