Riverside Academy went into Thursday night’s Class 2A bidistrict playoff game with all of seven players against a full bench of Haynes Academy Yellow Jackets. But that didn’t seem to matter much.
The No. 11 seed Rebels had three players in double figures and needed points from only five players to take a 51-34 victory over the Yellow Jackets to advance to the regional round. Riverside will play the Pine-General Trass winner.
Haynes, the District 9-2A champion, finished 19-13. The Yellow Jackets defeated Riverside 47-44 on January 14.
Point guard Kennedy White, the Rebels’ lone senior, led all scorers with 15 points. Dannecia Nora scored 13 and Briley Becker added 10. Eighth grader Chari Julien finished with eight points and JaKeyra Gautreaux added six.
“(White) is the heart and soul of our team,” second-year Riverside coach Kathy Luke said. “When she steps on the floor, she brings a toughness about her. She’s not a finesse player. She’s a tough kid. She’s a brawler. If you’re in a battle, you want to bring her with you. I thought Becker did a great job containing them. When we need to stop somebody, she’s it.”
Haynes, which played without its two seniors who were on their senior trip, were led by Shantrice Coleman, who scored 14 points. No other player reached double figures.
Although Haynes kept it close early, Riverside never trailed and never really was threatened as it took a 23-10 lead into halftime. The Rebels extended the lead early in the second half with eight points off of turnovers. White got it started with a quick basket off of a turnover, followed by a pair of baskets by Julien and one by Gautreaux.
Haynes got a pair of free throws from Jessica Martin at the 7:30 mark in the third quarter but did not score from the field until the 4:52 mark, when Megan Giacone hit a 3-pointer to cut Riverside’s lead to 31-15. Haynes continued to have trouble capitalizing on possessions and had to settle for four free throws until Coleman got a basket with 32 seconds remaining in the quarter.
Luke said Thursday’s win could help build the program and put more players in those empty sideline chairs.
“We’re trying to build a program,” Luke said. “We’re trying to get kids who want to come and play in our program. Kids want to go to a winning program. I feel like we’re trying to establish that. And anytime you advance in the playoffs that’s great progress.”