SPORTS >> Riverview beats rival in district
By JASON KING
Leader sports writer
ROSE BUD — Harding Academy stuck around just enough to keep Riverview honest in the 2-3A District tournament final on Friday night at Rambler Arena.
Riverview beat Harding Academy 56-49 and dominated the first half just as it had in the two previous meetings between the conference and cross-town rivals, though the Wildcats attempted yet another of their furious comebacks in the second half.
They were successful at cutting into the Raiders’ lead, which was 20 points in the first half, but ultimately fell short.
“At the end of the third, we just rushed some shots,” Raiders coach Russell Stumpenhous said. “We thought it was all going to be easy and thought they were going to lay down. They showed a lot of heart and a lot of fight. I give credit to them — it’s hard to beat a team three times in a row.”
Raiders junior post player D.J. Teague imposed his will inside early against the Wildcats, taking advantage of his four-inch height advantage on Harding Academy’s Daniel Stevens. Teague got a dunk in the first two minutes of the first quarter and went on to score 12 points.
“He was able to get in good position,” Stumpenhous said. “We were able to give him the ball, and some of his seals were really working early. Later on, he kind of got a little flatter, and they started being a little more physical with him. The refs weren’t necessarily cooperating on that end.”
Junior guard Taylor Smith took over for Riverview (24-5) once Teague began to draw extra attention. Smith closed the first quarter with a pair of three-point baskets for six of his team-high 15 points.
Freshman Will Francis came alive for the Wildcats (16-7) in the second quarter with six of his game-high 18 points. But after Francis, there was not much else going on offensively for Harding Academy in the first half.
Teague got back in the mix to open the third quarter while Keanan Lee, Jordan Perry and Tyler Colvin each added a three-pointer as the Raiders pulled away to a 42-22 lead with 2:18 left in the period.
But when both teams reached the double bonus in the final two minutes of the fourth quarter, the remainder of the game was played out at the free-throw line. There were 11 trips to the line in all, with the Raiders making eight.
Riverview went 10 of 17 at the line in the fourth quarter, which proved to be the difference after a three-pointer by Francis with 37 seconds left and a three-pointer by Raymond Dailey at the buzzer.
“We knew it was going to be tooth and nail in parts, but we were hoping it was going to be early and not late,” Stumpenhous said. “But it ended up being late and not early. But you take a win however it is.”
Colvin added 14 points and Perry scored 10 for Riverview. For Harding Academy, Jordan Smith scored 10 points.
The victory completed a 14-game sweep of the conference regular season and the district tournament for Riverview, but Stumpenhous says there is still work to do with regionals and state beginning.
“You want to be playing your best basketball right now, but I still feel like we’ve got a little bit of room for improvement,” Stumpenhous said. “There are some inconsistencies that we have at times. Maybe it’s just a lack of focus. It’s kind of hard to put your thumb down when you’re winning. You don’t want to critique too much, but at the same time, you don’t want to let things go.”
Riverview will be the No. 1 seed and the host for the 3A Region tournament this week. The Raiders will open the boys side of the bracket against 5-3A No. 4 seed Jessieville today at 5:30 p.m. while the Wildcats will be the No. 2 seed and play 5-3A No. 3 seed Episcopal on Thursday at 8:30 p.m.