Leader Blues

Thursday, December 14, 2006

SPORTS>> Raiders split with Academy

Harding Academy did everything it could to stop Riverview’s Tony Hall, while Riverview did everything it could to stop Harding Academy’s Alex Beene. Neither was stopped, as each scored 23 points, but a few more Raiders than Wildcats got in on the scoring as visiting Riverview outlasted Harding Academy 53-45 last Friday night in Searcy. The crosstown rivals were playing each other as conference foes for the first time, and the result was a huge road win for the Raiders.

“To start out at Abundant Life and at Harding Academy, and get two wins is pretty big,” Riverview coach Danny Starkey said. “We made it harder on ourselves than it should have been by missing all those free throws, but we’ll take it anyway we can get it.” Trailing by as much as 14 in the fourth quarter, Harding Academy was forced to begin fouling early. Hall was sent to the line seven times and hit all seven free shots. The rest of the team combined to hit just two of nine in the final frame, and that gave the Wildcats a sliver of hope until the very end.

After Riverview had missed its second front end of a one-and-one opportunity at the line, Academy’s Luke Tribble hit a three pointer with 1:28 remaining that cut the margin to 45-39, the closest the Wildcats would get. Hall got the inbound pass after a Harding timeout and was fouled with 1:26 left. He hit both free throws and Beene missed a three at the other end. The Wildcats fouled Bo Banks, who missed both free throws, but Hall got the rebound and was fouled hard by James Kee, who was hit with an intentional foul, which gave Riverview the ball back after the foul shots. On the inbound play, Hall got the ball again at the top of the key, and was nailed again by Kee after dribbling around a screen. Kee’s intent was unclear, but the foul put Hall flat on his back and the officials tossed him for a second flagrant foul. Hall again hit both shots which put the game out of reach with a minute to go.

Academy coach Rick Beene didn’t believe Kee meant to hit Hall so hard, but didn’t argue too much with the ejection. “It looked really bad, but James Kee is not that type of player to do something like that intending to hurt anybody,” Beene said.
Outside of Alex Beene and Tribble, the rest of the Wildcats only scored two points in the second half as the scoring pace dipped dramatically for both teams. Riverview was hot from the floor at the start of the game and jumped out to an 18-7 lead in the first quarter. The Raiders held close to that margin for most of the remainder of the game.

Hall scored eight points in the first quarter, and Academy switched to a box-and-one in the second. The strategy did a good job of keeping Hall out of the offensive sets, but he still got two trash buckets off offensive rebounds. He picked his third foul with 3:30 left in the second quarter, and had to take a seat. That drew Academy out of its box-and-one, and the Raiders executed well without Hall. Harding closed to within 28-20 shortly after Hall went to the bench, but Riverview closed the half with a 5-0 run to take a 33-20 lead into intermission.

Hall managed just two points in the third quarter, but the Wildcats could only cut two points off their deficit. Beene highlighted the third period of action with an acrobatic, backwards, over-the-head, one-handed bank shot from the middle of the lane. The Wildcat defense didn’t give up a second-half bucket until 2:17 left in the third, but had only scored five points to get to within eight. Tribble took over in the fourth quarter and scored 10 of his 12 in the game, and 10 of the team’s 14 in the final period. “What can you say about Luke Tribble,” Rick Beene said. “That was all heart. He’s got a hurt shoulder and he’s only practiced with us four times. To go out there and score 10 points in the fourth quarter and keep your team in it, that says a lot about that kid.”

About the two leading scorers, the HA head coach was impressed with both. “That was about the best game I’ve seen Alex ever play, and he only had 23. He’s had games that he’s scored twice that, but he earned every single one of those tonight. They did an incredible job on him. The same thing can be said about Tony Hall. I thought our defense on him was really outstanding, he’s just a great player that found a way to score. He shoots free throws as well as anybody you’re going to see.”

Starkey was satisfied with the win, but still expressed some concerns for his team down the road, most notable the performance at the line. “Hitting two of nine in the fourth quarter isn’t going to win any close ball games,” Starkey said. “We’ve got to be better than that, and we’ve got to be more patient and play smarter when we have a good lead. Just because you’ve got a wide-open look at a three, doesn’t mean you take it, not when you’ve got a 12-point lead in the fourth quarter.”

The Harding Academy Lady Wildcats staved off a strong rally by visiting city rival Riverview Friday night in the first-ever conference match between the two teams. The Lady Wildcats got a 48-42 victory on the strength of a very balanced effort by Katie Koch. Koch’s 13 points didn’t lead the team, but she also finished with six rebounds and six assists. “She played an incredible game all the way around,” Harding assistant coach Rusty Garner said. “We needed it tonight and she came through.”

Riverview post player Jasmine James was shredding Academy’s zone defense. Despite packing the lane, Riverview’s guards still found James open from mid-range when she would flash in the paint. “They did a great job of executing that offense and Jasmine was amazing,” Garner said. “She just couldn’t miss. She was killing us with those mid-range jumpers.” James finished with 20 points, but she went cold late in the fourth quarter. That allowed Academy a little breathing room, and enior perimeter player Jennifer Kee thrust the dagger into the Lady Raiders with a pair of late three pointers.”

“She hadn’t scored much the whole game, but she is so clutch,” Garner said. “She’s been doing that since she was a freshman. We know we can rely on her.” Kee finished with nine points. Loghan Lowery actually led the team in scoring with 16. she was four of seven from beyond the three-point stripe. Liz Ashley added 10 points and six boards for the Lady Wildcats, who improved to 7-1 overall and 2-0 in conference play. James’ 20 led Riverview while Amy Jo Davis added 11 and Jasmin Washington scored seven for the Lady Raiders. The Riverview ladies fell to 8-6 and 1-1.