Riverside coach Timmy Byrd sat in the middle during postgame interviews Saturday.
Jordan Andrews and Malik Crowfield sat to his right.
Von Julien and Herb McGee were flanked to his left.
“These four guys are the face of this program,” Byrd said.
Riverside had just captured its third consecutive Class 2A state championship, and perhaps the most special one in the three-peat.
The Rebels finished the season 30-6 and didn’t lose a game all season to a team from Louisiana. In fact, they haven’t lost to an in-state opponent since falling to Scotlandville in the regular season in late 2013.
It helped Riverside go wire-to-wire as the No. 1 ranked team in The New Orleans Advocate’s Super 10.
“They just are winners, and they get it done no matter how they have to get it done,” Byrd said.
It was the 12th state championship for Byrd (five at Riverside and seven at Reserve Christian).
“These guys are high IQ basketball players, and it says a lot about our program the way they go about approaching the game,” Byrd said. “I’m blessed to have guys who know how to play this game. … I don’t love them for what they do on the court, but I love them for who they are.”
Julien and Jordan are departing seniors who have played together since middle school.
“When Jordan first got here, we were like best friends,” Julien said. “We had that bond. We just had that connection to play together, that winning mentality.”
Julien, the Rebels’ point guard, was the glue.
“Von is a coach on the floor,” Byrd said. “I have watched his game grow. He is a blur on the court, but he is one of the few guys who can play fast and make good decisions. Everybody knows he is the engine that makes us go.”
Andrews was named Most Outstanding Player of the championship game and was also named to the all-tournament team, along with Julien and McGee. Crowfield was named Most Outstanding Player of the championship game in 2014.
“When one of them wins an MVP, people look at all four of them,” Byrd said. “They could let people get in their ear and cause problems, but they haven’t. We’ve been fortunate that all four have won MVP trophies in different tournaments and state tournaments.”
It’s that balance from the quarter that made this Riverside team so explosive. Riverside scored over 100 points nine times this season, including a season-high 130 points against St. James.
“You just don’t know which one of the four guys are going to kill you,” Byrd said. “You know one of them, but you just hope all four don’t do it at the same time. They have just gotten so much better every year, and it’s because of the time they have invested in the game.”
But as prolific as the Rebels are in lighting up the scoreboard, it was their willingness to share the ball that Byrd really appreciated.
“If you look at the assist column, our team gets a lot of assists, and it shows how unselfish our team is,” he said. “Our team is probably the most unselfish team around. For these guys to be able to score the way they do and not take bad shots speaks volumes for who they are.”
Despite being a Class 2A school, the Rebels had some big wins this season.
They posted double digit wins over the state champions in Class 5A (Scotlandville), Class 4A (Landry-Walker) and 3A (University High).
In order to win a fourth straight title next season, the Rebels will have to do so without Julien, Andrews and starting center Joe Anderson, along with reserves Darrion Cook, Jake Venus, and Richie George.
Crowfield and McGee return, as well as promising freshman Jared Butler.
The competition in 2A will be tougher as well, with Madison Prep and Country Day moving up from Class 1A and Rayville moving down from 3A.
“Traditionally people have said 4A has been the best class the last 10 years, and it probably has been,” Byrd said. “But 2A isn’t going to take a backseat to anyone next year.”