Watch out playoffs, the Rebels are coming

Published 12:02 am Saturday, February 17, 2018

RESERVE — It’s been a magical season for the Riverside Academy Running Rebels basketball team, characterized by talent and a tradition of excellence that has come to be expected.

Finishing the regular season at 31-1, the Running Rebels anticipate entering the playoffs with a bye and competing in the Division III regional contest on March 2.

Advancing to the playoffs is nothing out of the ordinary. Riverside Academy has made playoff runs the past eight years, culminating in five state championships.

Riverside Academy guard Kash Foley goes up for a layup. (Photo by Peter G. Forest)

Last year’s unexpected semifinal loss was a pain point for the team, according to head coach Timmy Byrd. Eager for redemption, the boys have stayed focused and performed well, coming into each game with a desire to win.

It’s the high-performing gameplay Riverside Academy is known for, but Byrd considers this season even more successful than years past.

Since their first game at the end of November, the Running Rebels have been ranked the No. 1 in Louisiana and top 25 in the nation, as rated by MaxPreps based on wins and strength of schedule.

“This has been one of the most special seasons we’ve had, and it’s been much better than last season,” Byrd said. “We have a mature team with a lot of seniors, and they’re kids who know how to win. They’ve been playing together since eighth grade.”

Riverside Academy forward Jeremiah Bigham, No. 13, denies the shot of Lincoln forward Kenechukwu Ndefo. (Photo by Peter G. Forest)

He said it would be impossible to pinpoint a single top-performing player because there have been eight standouts.

Seniors Jared Butler, Garland Robertson, Jalen Banks, Jeremiah Bigham and Jordan Loving have finished games well all season and will leave behind big shoes to fill.

Juniors Kash Foley and Isaiah Bigham and freshman Gage Larvadain have also left a mark on the program as powerful forces on the court.

“Every one of those top eight players have had huge games at different times,” Byrd said. “They are all pretty spectacular. Every game, we’ll have one or two really step up.”

A successful season means no change in strategy going into playoffs, but Byrd said the team isn’t guaranteed smooth sailing to the championship round.

Country Day, Dunham, Episcopal and Newman are formidable teams with strong records and a history of success in the playoffs, Byrd said.

Playoff brackets are expected to be announced on the LHSAA website Monday, Byrd said.