Leader Blues

Monday, January 22, 2007

SPORTS>>Prayer falls, lifts Raiders to win

By RAY BENTON
Leader sports editor

A phenomenally executed game plan almost garnered Abundant Life their biggest win of the season Tuesday night at Riverview. But a late turnover and an improbable shot at the buzzer turned it into a gut-wrenching 66-63 loss. Abundant Life hit a shot to tie the game at 63 with seconds remaining. Riverview coach Danny Starkey called a timeout with 8.4 seconds on the clock to set up the final play. Abundant Life coach Tim Ballard called two straight timeouts after seeing how Riverview set up. Starkey changed his play after the first timeout, but decided to stick with the second call. It didn’t work.
Thatcher Cooperwood took the inbound pass and hit Tony Hall inside. Hall’s shot didn’t fall and Abundant Life got the rebound with four seconds left. Having no timeouts, the Owls passed the ball out of the lane, where it was deflected and rolled loose out into the middle of the floor, and straight to Riverview’s Dominique Baker. Baker scooped it up and let it fly in a single motion from about 22 feet. The buzzer sounded as he shot. The ball bounced high off the front of the rim, kissed the backboard and fell through, giving the Raiders the victory and keeping them undefeated in conference play. Ballard said his team was deflated by the loss.

“It was like a funeral afterwards,” Ballard said. “It’s a shame that a few breaks determined the outcome. They worked their hearts and guts out. They were sick about it.” Starkey also thought his team was out-played. “They did everything but win the ballgame,” Starkey said of the Owls. “They out-played us, I was out-coached, we were out-executed and all that. We feel very fortunate to get out of that one with a win.” Starkey didn’t attribute the struggles his team endured in the game to a lack of focus, only to Abundant Life.

“We’ve lost a couple of games this year because we just weren’t ready to play, but I don’t really think that was the case this time,” Starkey said. “I think we were very focused and very ready to play. If we hadn’t been, Abundant Life would’ve beat us by 30.” The Owls led by as much as 13 points in the third quarter before leading scorer Colby Woolverton went to the bench with four fouls. Thomas Cheney and Josh ?? also picked up their fourth foul in the third. Meanwhile, Riverview’s Tony Hall went to work to pull his team back into the game.

Hall scored 11 of his team’s 15 points in the third quarter as the Raiders turned that 13-point deficit into a four-point deficit by the start of the fourth. Hall finished with 36 points to lead all scorers. “That Tony Hall is just unstoppable,” Ballard said. “Coach Starkey’s team has a ton of athleticism and Hall is outstanding.” Starkey doesn’t think his team has any advantage in athleticism over the Owls, and attributed their better play to their speed.”

“We’ll push it up the floor, but we don’t run anything like that. We’re not as fast as they are and the way they executed their fastbreak, we just couldn’t do much about it. For us it was kind of like, let’s try to hang on and see what happens.”
Abundant Life dropped to 6-4 in league play. Fowler and Cheney led the Owls with 17 each while Woolverton added 15. Baker added 13 for Riverview. The win lifted The Raiders to 9-0 in conference play and two games ahead of second-place Rose Bud with four remaining.

The Lady Raiders didn’t have as much trouble, racing out to an early lead and cruising to a 53-35 victory. Riverview led by as much as 46-22 by the end of the third quarter. Kori Meachum led the way with 11 points while Jasmin Washington added 10 for the Lady Raiders. Riverview’s girls are now 8-2 in conference while Abundant Life dropped to 2-8.