Riverside overcomes foul trouble to bank home 3rd straight crown

Published 11:45 pm Tuesday, March 17, 2015


LAKE CHARLES — It was a heated slugfest in Saturday night’s Class 2A state championship game between Riverside and Lakeview: physically, verbally and emotionally, between two teams that competed for the same crown a year earlier.

But in the end, the Rebel fans summed everything up best with a simple chant.

“Three-peat! Three-peat!”

Riverside (30-6) took complete command in the fourth quarter, outscoring the Gators 26-12 and overcoming the loss of two starters who fouled out to capture an 85-60 win that earned the Rebels their third straight state crown and their fifth in the past six seasons.

“This is a group of winners,” Riverside coach Timmy Byrd said. “I’m extremely proud of these guys. They didn’t back down. They can play a finesse game, they can play a physical game, speed it up or slow it down. No matter what it takes to win a game, they can and will do that.”

Riverside’s Jordan Andrews captured championship game MVP honors, making him the third different player to receive the honor in RA’s run of three straight titles. He did it as a model of efficiency, scoring 19 points on 6-of-8 shooting, including three 3-pointers. He also grabbed five rebounds and dished four assists to one turnover in 21 minutes of play. The senior’s minutes were limited as he battled foul trouble in the second half.

Herb McGee (17 points, six rebounds, five assists), Von Julien (17 points, seven rebounds, three steals), Malik Crowfield (10 points, four assists, 0 turnovers) and Jared Butler (10 points, four steals) rounded out RA’s group of double-digit scorers.

It is the 12th state championship win for Riverside head coach Timmy Byrd, and Riverside is the first team in Louisiana to win three consecutive state championships since Reserve Christian did it from 2006-2008 — a team also led by Byrd.

The teams were familiar with each other from the previous year’s championship showdown, and there was animated talk going both ways, with tempers flaring even before the tip-off.

What ensued was a tightly officiated game: the two teams combined to shoot 77 total free throws, and eight of the game’s 10 starters finished with four fouls or more, with five fouling out.

“There was a point in the third quarter that I didn’t know if we’d have enough players to finish,” Byrd said.

Among the players fouling out was Malik Crowfield, which led to some real drama which belied the game’s final score: Crowfield, last season’s 2A championship game MVP and Player of the Year, was whistled for his fifth foul with 1:41 left to play in the third quarter. RA led 55-45 at the time.

But two Julien scores to end the third gave RA a 12-point lead entering the final frame, and early in the fourth quarter an Andrews slam-dunk and then his drawn charge ignited a dominant Riverside final quarter.

“Malik is my brother,” Andrews said.

“So are the rest of our team. I felt I needed to step up. We were going to win it for (Crowfield).”

The sequence seemed to be a clear momentum shift. RA outscored Lakeview 15-3 after Andrews drew the charge.

“I wasn’t real happy with him trying to take a charge there,” Byrd said, alluding to Andrews playing with four fouls, “but it was a legitimate charge. It was the right play.

“His play down the stretch showed very high IQ.”

Crowfield, who displayed a rush of emotion after being whistled for his final foul, said once the reality of what happened set in, he believed his team would come through.

“I knew they’d play even harder,” Crowfield said. “They always have my back.”

Julien followed that Andrews sequence by drawing a pair of fouls and making three of four free throws to make it a 13-point lead. Then Joe Anderson flushed home a two-handed jam.

Anderson fouled out with 5:17 left in the game, but the Rebels had Lakeview locked down.

RA quickly pushed the lead over 20 with a pair of buckets in transition by Andrews and Darrion Cook.

Riverside’s 85 point effort came despite a cold shooting day from the outside, RA making just 4 of 19 3-point attempts.

But the Rebels attacked the basket relentlessly and shot 47 percent from the field overall in addition to drawing 41 free throw attempts. RA’s defense held Lakeview to 33 percent shooting from the field.

Tay Hardy led Lakeview (26-6) with 18 points. Malik Metoyer and Cameron Pottain each added 12 points.

With so much foul trouble on both ends, Byrd said a big difference was the play of Riverside’s bench, including Darrion Cook was one of the primary defender’s tasked with limiting Hardy, who shot 3 of 13 in the game.

“Darrion was huge, absolutely huge for us,” Byrd said.