LAKE CHARLES — The boys from Reserve have reserved their spot in the championship game ... again.
For the seventh consecutive season, Riverside Academy will play for a state title.
No. 2 Riverside will go for its fourth straight state championship after pulling away in the second half for an easier-than-expected 71-52 victory over No. 3 Country Day in Wednesday’s Class 2A semifinals at Burton Coliseum.
“Not too many guys have the opportunity to win four in a row,” senior Herb McGee said. “It’s a credit to coach and the type of coach he is. He lets you play your game and if a coach lets you do that, then everybody feels comfortable as a team and it’s hard to stop you then.”
The Rebels (28-5) advance to Saturday’s 4 p.m. championship game to play the winner of Thursday’s semifinal between top seed Madison Prep and No. 4 North Caddo.
Wednesday’s game in the Allstate Sugar Bowl LHSAA’s Boys Top 28 was the third meeting of the season between the two District 12-2A teams.
Country Day won the first meeting 63-56, and Riverside won the second game 81-66.
The Riverside trio of Malik Crowfield, Jared Butler and McGee made sure the Rebels won the one that counted the most.
Crowfield scored a team-high 24 points to go with his 10 rebounds. Butler finished with 20. McGee, a South Alabama signee, finished with 12 points and nine rebounds.
“Their stats were really big tonight,” Riverside coach Timmy Byrd said.
Riverside led 27-25 late in the second quarter then closed the half on a 4-0 run to take a 31-25 halftime lead. The Rebels scored the first six points of the second half on back-to-back 3-pointers by Crowfield and Garland Robertson to all of a sudden go up 37-25. They started pulling away then, leading by as many as 25 late.
Country Day, which won back-to-back 1A titles in 2013 and 2014 before moving up to 2A this season, finished 25-9.
“We are really better than this,” Country Day coach Mike McGuire said. “Sorry about this performance. They had a lot to do with that. I thought they defended beautifully and had a bunch of run outs. Then they started hitting 3s, and once they start hitting 3s, they are hard to beat. Give them a lot of credit.”
Early on, it looked as if Riverside would deliver an early knockout. The Rebels trailed 9-6, but went on an 11-0 run to take a 17-9 lead. They led 23-11 by the end of the quarter. Crowfield, a VCU signee, jumpstarted the run with a personal 6-0 run. Crowfield single-handedly outscored the Cajuns 12-11 in the opening quarter.
Country Day went the final 4:52 of the quarter without scoring a field goal. The Cajuns only field goals in the quarter came on a pair of 3-pointers by junior Romin Williams and another by senior Michael Corchiani.
Williams had a career night to keep Country Day in it. He exploded in the second quarter for 13 points. The junior guard scored 21 of his team’s 25 first half points. Williams finished with a career-high 36 points, eclipsing the 35 he scored this season against West St. John. Despite the career night, he was emotional after the loss.
“I just wanted to help my team the most I could,” Williams said. “I didn’t want to go home, especially since it’s my last game with my brother (Corchiani).
Corchiani, the Most Outstanding Player in the Cajuns’ previous two title runs as freshman and sophomore, finished with eight points in his final game.
“Romin, in the playoffs, has been on fire,” McGuire said. “He has done it all year, but particularly in the last four in the playoffs. We knew those two (Corchiani and Williams) would carry us as they normally do, but we didn’t get enough from everybody else.”
Byrd credited the defensive play of Jalen Banks, who guarded Corchiani this time.
“We put length on him this time, and Jalen Banks did a phenomal job,” Byrd said. “The thing we didn’t want to do was let both of them (Williams and Corchiani) go off on us. That’s the tale of the tape. We were able to limit their best player, and we think he (Corchiani) is their best player. He is the heart and guts and soul of their team.”
Williams and Corchiani were the only two Cajuns to score until Kaleb Jenkins hit 2 of 3 free throws with 4:20 left.
Byrd is now one win away from 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. His Riverside teams have reached the title game every year since he’s been there.
“You never get tired of it because it’s always a new group,” Byrd said. “I don’t get tired of it because I get to witness the sacrifice and the work ethic. To see them get rewarded, I can do this for 100 years.”