District 12-2A rivals Country Day, Riverside meet for third time with Class 2A final berth at stake _lowres

Advocate staff photo by ELIOT KAMENITZ-- Riverside's Jared Butler is fouled by Karr's Diamante Woolridge in the Allstate Sugar Bowl National Prep Classic on Jan. 9 at the Alario Center in Westwego.

Country Day won the first one.

Riverside Academy won the second one.

Round 3, the one that really matters, is set for 8 p.m. Wednesday in the Class 2A semifinals of the Allstate Sugar Bowl Boys Top 28 tournament in Lake Charles at Burton Coliseum.

The winner advances to Saturday’s 4 p.m. championship game to play either Madison Prep or North Caddo.

For No. 2 Riverside (27-5), the championship game has been a fixture.

The Rebels have been to the title game in all six seasons since Timmy Byrd took over as head coach. They’ve won the championship in five of those six seasons, including three in a row. They will go for a fourth straight this week, but first they must get past the No. 3-seeded Cajuns, an all too familiar foe from District 12-2A opponent.

Country Day won 63-56 in January and Riverside responded with an 81-66 win in February.

Byrd says splitting the two games is probably a good thing for his Rebels.

“We are going against a team that has beaten us,” Byrd said. “So it’s not like playing a team that you’ve beat twice and you have a hard time getting your kids up for the game. Our kids are not going to take Country Day lightly because we have already been beaten by them. That’s No. 1.”

But Byrd knows getting another win won’t be a cakewalk.

“(Country Day coach) Mike McGuire is a really good coach so he is going to have his team prepared,” Byrd said. “We are going against an extremely well coached team that has been there every year so their kids believe and they expect to be there.”

Country Day (25-8) is making its fourth straight trip to the Top 28, returning this season for the first time since it made the move from Class 1A to 2A.

“We know them really well and of course they know us really well,” said McGuire, whose team won back-to-back 1A crowns in 2013 and 2014.

The Cajuns are led by the backcourt duo of Michael Corchiani and Romin Williams.

Riverside counters with a guard heavy lineup featuring Malik Crowfield, Herb McGee and Jared Butler.

“They shoot the ball exceptionally well,” McGuire said. “They have four or five kids who can score double figures every game. You know Butler, Crowfield and McGee are going to be terrific. But they have so many weapons. They don’t have size, and we don’t have size, so it’s all guards out there playing hard.”

It’s a matchup that McGuire figured would come at some point in the postseason. He told his team even before the season started.

“I let them know that the 2A championship goes through Riverside,” McGuire said.

Byrd is going for his 13th state title. In addition to his five at Riverside, he won seven during his time at Reserve Christian. Perhaps even more impressive, he’s been to the Top 28 Tournament in 16 of 18 seasons. The last time one of his teams didn’t make the Top 28 was in 2004. Country Day, meanwhile, has been to the Top 28 in eight of the past 10 seasons.

“Both teams know each other very well,” Byrd said. “It’s going to come down to who makes their breaks and making the adjustments based on how the game is called and played. Who’s hitting and whose not. There are a lot of factors.”

His Rebels have won 13 consecutive games since the loss to Country Day.

“We feel real good about where we are right now,” Byrd said.