There weren’t any championship trophies on the line in Monday night’s basketball game between Scotlandville and Riverside, but it certainly felt like it.
The two powerhouse programs, which have combined for eight state championships since 2010, battled for four quarters, but Herb McGee’s layup with one second remaining gave Riverside a 53-51 win in the semifinals of the Country Day Classic on Monday night.
The Rebels handed the Hornets (11-1) their first loss since December 2014 and will move on to play Edna Karr in the championship round of the tournament on Tuesday at 8 p.m.
“It’s big for us because they are the best team in the state,” Riverside coach Tim Byrd said. “We have warriors on our team, and they beat us earlier in the season, so I knew our guys would be motivated.”
After trailing the majority of the first half, Riverside (3-3) opened the second half with an 11-0 run, capped by an alley-oop dunk by guard Malik Crowfield that made the score 34-24 early in the third quarter.
The Rebels took a 42-38 lead into the fourth quarter, but Scotlandville slowly crept back into the game, and Javonte Smart’s layup with a little over two minutes left in the game tied the score at 51.
Riverside held on to the ball for the game’s final shot, and had several opportunities, but got the win after Jared Butler found Herb McGee off an inbounds pass for a quick layup that gave the Rebels the lead for good.
Crowfield led the way for Riverside with 22 points, seven rebonds and three steals. Butler had 15 points, four rebounds and three steals.
“I went to the huddle and I told coach I wanted the shot,” McGee said. “Coach (Byrd) is a mastermind, so he drew up the play, and (Butler) did a great job of finding me.”
The three games the Rebels have played in the Country Day tournament were the team’s first games of the season since getting the majority of their rotation players back after they finished football season.
The Rebels opened the season with three losses, but responded by winning its first two games of the tournament by a combined margin of 175-93 and took down a Hornets team that was beating opponents by an average of 30 points per game coming into Monday.
“It was big for us to get those guys back and start getting them into basketball shape,” Crowfield said. “We know how good we can be with those guys, so it’s just a matter of getting back to where we were.”
Smart scored all 13 of the Hornets’ points in the first quarter, but Riverside shifted its defense to take the sophomore out of his comfort zone, and Scotlandville coach Carlos Sample said his team struggled to gain its rhythm again after that.
Smart, ESPN.com’s No. 1 point guard in the nation for Class of 2018, finished with 25 points and five rebounds before fouling out late.
“We did a lot of standing around and didn’t get into our rhythm,” Sample said. “They did a good job of keeping us out of the paint and kind of out-hustled us to the ball.”