Rick Hickman / American Press)
Last Modified: Friday, March 14, 2014 4:46 PMThe Riverside Academy Rebels booked their ticket to their fifth consecutive Class 2A state championship game Thursday when they knocked off the state’s Cinderella team, No. 28 North Caddo 101-52 at Burton Coliseum.
They will meet Lakeview in the championship game at 6 p.m. Saturday.
“We beat a really good team today,” said Riverside head coach Timmy Byrd. “They definitely weren’t a 28-seed. I think we surprised everybody by showing how good of a defensive team we are.”
For North Caddo (12-19), a dream turnaround season that saw it start 3-15 comes to an end, parlaying its first playoff appearance since 1969 into a trip to the Louisiana High School Athletic Association Top 28 tournament.
“(Riverside) is a very good team, but we made a run at them and gave it our best shot,” said North Caddo head coach Ron Miekle. “This has been a great run for us, but we ran into a better team today.”
Leading Riverside (35-3) was its trio of underclassmen guards Herb McGee, Charvon Julien and Malik Crowfield who combined for 65 points. McGee scored 18 and Crowfield scored 26 while Julien finished with a double-double of 21 points and 11 assists.
North Caddo kept the game close early, trailing 36-29 at halftime, but completely collapsed under the intense pressure Riverside brought in the third quarter.
“We came out of halftime knowing that we had to get the lead up,” Julien said. “We knew we had to play better defense because our offense is generated from our defense. We do a good job of trapping then getting the steal for the breakaway.”
Riverside outscored North Caddo 35-2 in the third quarter with North Caddo tying a Class 2A tournament record for fewest points scored in a quarter.
“We didn’t play well in the first half, but I think we righted the ship later on, and it was self-evident how good our players are in that third quarter,” Byrd said.
Riverside tied the Top 28 record for most points scored by a 2A team in one half and broke the record for most assists in a game.
#2 Lakeview ......... 81
#14 St. James ......... 58
Riverside’s opponents for the title game, the Lakeview Gators, punched their ticket earlier in the day.
“This is a dream come true for our program,” said Lakeview head coach Joshua Hancock. “It’s an honor and I’m very proud of my kids because very few people can say they have ever been in this position.”
In a clash of styles, the Wildcats (20-13) often found themselves trying to best the Gators (28-4) at their own game to no avail.
Leading the way for Lakeview was junior guard Tay Hardy, who finished with 28 points, seven rebounds and six assists despite missing time after taking an incidental knee to the head.
“Coach told us to come out fast and establish our pace so I knew I had to attack,” Hardy said.
Jason Favorite led the way for St. James, scoring 16 points and collecting six steals.