LAKE CHARLES — For the first time since 2012, Riverside Academy was unable to bring a state championship trophy back to Reserve.
An uncharacteristic, record-setting scoring drought did the Rebels in.
No. 2 Riverside had its lowest scoring output since Timmy Byrd took over as coach seven years ago, falling 41-33 to No. 1 seed Madison Prep in the LHSAA Class 2A boys basketball state championship game Saturday at Burton Coliseum.
“They were the better team tonight,” Riverside senior Herb McGee said.
The 74 combined points set a record for fewest points in the 2A title game, eclipsing the 76 scored in the 1993 game between Newman and Beau Chene.
Riverside’s 33 points tied for the fewest points in the 2A title game, equaling the 33 scored by South Terrebonne against Neville in 1963.
“I thought we would win easily if we rebounded well, and we did,” said Byrd, whose team was in its seventh straight final. “We just couldn’t get anything going offensively. They had something to do with that. We were never able to settle down. We rushed the whole time. We never were able to settle down and get in a rhythm.”
Madison Prep (34-4) won its third state title in four years, all in different classifications. The Chargers won the Class B championship in 2013 and the 1A crown last season.
“This one is special, because it was probably more unexpected,” Madison Prep coach Jeff Jones said.
It probably also helped that it came in the first meeting between the small-school powerhouses, which now have combined for eight state titles since 2010.
The game was close throughout, with Riverside clinging to a 30-29 lead with 2:24 left. But the Chargers surged on a 10-0 run to finally get some cushion. The run was highlighted by back-to-back dunks by William Loyd and Joshua Anderson. The lead ballooned to 39-30 on a layup by Chargers guard Marquis Browder with 20 seconds left.
“If we played that team five teams, who knows? We might win three times,” Byrd said. “They had it going tonight. We played their game, a low-scoring game when we’re a high-scoring offense. It went their way tonight. All I have is praise for them, because they deserve it.”
Herb McGee and Malik Crowfield scored 14 and 13 points to lead the Rebels (27-6).
McGee and Crowfield, playing their final game together, scored Riverside’s first 16 points. McGee scored 11 of his points in a back-and-forth first half that ended with the Rebels leading 20-19. The Rebels committed 12 of their 20 turnovers in the first half.
“I can’t say enough about Herb and Malik for what they have done for our program,” Byrd said. “We’re really going to miss those two guys.”
Both teams struggled in the third quarter, combining for just seven points. Riverside went the first six minutes of the quarter without scoring. The drought didn’t end until Jalen Banks scored on a putback with two minutes left, the Rebels’ only points of the quarter.
Their two points set a Class 2A record for scoring futility in a quarter. But despite that, the Rebels trailed just 24-22.
“I felt good,” Byrd said. “You score two points, and you’re just two points down. Usually if you score two points in a championship game, you’re out of it. It just showed how much defense our kids played tonight. It was a physical brand of basketball. Our kids stayed right in there.”
It was just the kind of game Jones wanted from his Chargers, who finished the season on a 17-game winning streak.
“We didn’t want to get in a track meet with those guys,” he said. “We are real versatile. We can play in the high numbers, or we can play the slow, grind-it-out style we played today. We didn’t want Herb, Malik and Jared (Butler) to get in any rhythm. They have one of the best transition games in the state, and we didn’t want to get involved in that. We had to stick to our strength, which is grinding and defense.”
Jared Butler and Jalen Banks scored three points each to complete the scoring for Riverside.
Joshua Anderson scored 11 points and grabbed seven rebounds for the Chargers. Josh LeBlanc had nine points and a game-high 14 rebounds.
Byrd was going for his 13th state title after winning seven at Reserve Christian and then five (in the past six years) at Riverside. But it wasn’t to be.
“They played really good defense,” Byrd said. “That’s the first team to really shut us down. Defensively, I thought they were smothering. We just couldn’t really get it going tonight.”