Rebels’ press leads to playoff victory

Published 11:45 pm Friday, February 20, 2015


RESERVE — “There’s no finesse with Kennedy,” Riverside coach Kathy Luke said following her team’s opening round playoff game with visiting Haynes Thursday, referring to guard Kennedy White. “She takes it right at you. That’s what we wanted from her.”

And that’s what the Rebels got. White scored a game-high 15 points — all of them scored at the foul line — as Riverside bounced Haynes decisively, 51-34.

“I know (the free throw line) is where I get my points,” said White, who relentlessly attacked the basket for the entirety of play. “Coach told me they’d try and deny me the ball, so when I got it, she said to attack. I took it inside every time.”

Dannecia Nora scored 13 points, Briley Becker 10 and Chari Julien eight for Riverside.

It was a rematch for the two teams. Haynes defeated Riverside 47-44 during the regular season in a non-district matchup Luke said her team did not play its best.

This time, Luke and the Rebels tweaked their game plan, especially defensively, where RA held Haynes to just 10 first half points as it built a 23-10 halftime lead.

“We felt they had some tendencies we could exploit,” Luke said. “They’re a right-handed team, predominantly. They try and set everything up from the right side, and we made them go left.”

It led to a barrage of forced turnovers, including 16 in the first half.

“We know that our defense is the key to our offense,” White said. “We get a lot of points on steals and transition. We really focused in on the defensive end.”

Shantrice Coleman led Haynes with 10 points.

With Haynes focused on stopping usual Rebels leading scorer Ja’Keyra Gautreaux, others stepped up big offensively. RA was cold from the field early, but that began to change midway through the second quarter after Becker sank two free throws and assisted Nora underneath for a basket to make it 16-8. Julien made a jumper to make it a 10-point RA lead, then Becker canned a 3 to push the lead to 13. Whitney Harris scored to give Haynes its first field goal of the second quarter with 2:12 left to play, but another Becker basket just before half made it 23-10.

Julien came out hot to begin the second half, making three consecutive jumpers to put the Rebels ahead 29-12. RA led by 15 when White went on a personal 5-0 scoring run. A steal and a layup by Becker to end the third quarter made it 40-21.

Two straight baskets by Nora to begin the fourth quarter all but put thoughts of a Yellowjackets comeback to bed.

Though the Rebels are young, with just seven players in Luke’s rotation, she said this team can’t and won’t use that as an excuse.

“You can be upset about it, or you can use it as an opportunity to get those core players more reps in practice,” she said. “We don’t think about it or talk about it. (Thursday) we stayed out of foul trouble, which was fortunate.”