Neal, Becker combine for 36 points to lead Riverside into semifinals

Published 1:00 pm Friday, February 23, 2018

MIDLAND — For the first time in the history of the program, the Riverside Academy Lady Rebels advanced to the LHSAA semifinals after a nail-biting 48-45 Thursday night win against No. 4 seed Notre Dame.

It was a historic quarterfinal face off for the Lady Rebels, who had never advanced past the second round of playoffs.

RA’s Briley Becker gets clear for a shot during playoff action this week.

Initially uncertain whether the game against Notre Dame would be a slow and steady boxing match or an all-out street fight, the girls adopted a high intensity, fast paced strategy and scored several clutch shots from the free throw line.

Bria Neal stepped up as leading scorer for the second playoff game in a row, contributing an impressive 20 points. Briley Becker followed close behind, scoring 16 points of her own.

Head coach Kevin Dizer said the Lady Pioneers outsized the Lady Rebels and put up a good fight, lasting until the final minutes. At the very end, Riverside Academy stole the lead and ran with it.

“They did it,” Dizer said. “These girls never quit; they never stopped believing, and it’s a true testament to them playing hard.”

He said it goes to show the girls can stand up to the legacy of success instituted by the Running Rebels boys basketball team.

“The program is headed in the right direction,” Dizer said. “When I took this job, all the athletic programs were having some success, and girls basketball was behind a little bit. Now we’re right there, up to par with the rest of our teams, the way it should be.”

Dizer, a second-year coach at Riverside Academy, said the girls are buying into the program and positioning themselves for continued success.

Neal said the season has been special since it’s her first time advancing to this stage of the playoffs, and she’s happy to have had the chance to grow alongside her teammates through challenges.

“It was tough in the beginning,” Neal said, adding it took adjustment to find team chemistry without standout player Dannie Nora, who suffered an injury early in the season.

“We lost some games, and we were hard on ourselves, but we pushed through and kept fighting. I’m proud of my team, and I’m proud of myself.”

Neal said she intends to keep fighting until that last buzzer sounds.

“It’s not finished yet. We’re still going, and we want to win the championship.”

The Lady Rebels will compete in a semifinals against St. Mary’s Academy at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday at Rapides Coliseum in Alexandria.

Riverside Academy faced off against St. Mary’s Academy earlier this month and won by a single point.