LAKE CHARLES —Riverside’s Class 2A semifinal game against North Caddo on Thursday wasn’t nearly as easy as the one a year ago.
But the Rebels won, and will now go for their third consecutive state championship and fifth in the last six years.
Top-seed Riverside got off to a scorching hot start and then staved off a North Caddo comeback attempt to win 79-71 in a Boys Top 28 State Tournament game at Burton Coliseum.
“The object of the game is to win,” Riverside coach Timmy Byrd said. “Sometimes it’s not pretty and sometimes you don’t play your best, but I think North Caddo had a little to do with that. I’m glad we get to fight another day.”
Riverside (29-6) will play Lakeview at about 4 p.m. Saturday in a rematch of last year’s title game.
To get there, the Rebels had a semifinal rematch as well.
This one was much closer than last year’s 101-52 blowout victory over North Caddo.
Early on, it looked like Riverside may be headed to yet another lopsided victory.
Jordan Andrews opened up with a pair of 3-pointers to set the tone early.
“They were giving me open shots, and my teammates were finding me,” Andrews said. “I felt really good this morning, and it just carried over into the game.”
Andrews scored 12 of his 15 points (three 3-pointers) in the opening quarter. Andrews also grabbed a team-best eight rebounds. Herb McGee led Riverside with 23 points. Von Julien had 17 and Malik Crowfield had 10 points and seven rebounds.
Riverside knocked down seven 3-pointers in the first quarter and looked on its way to breaking the 100-point mark for the 10th time this season. They made five more 3-pointers in the second quarter, shooting a red hot 12 of 25 (48 percent) from beyond the arc in the first half to build what looked like a comfortable 45-29 lead.
“That team could have laid down the way the first half went, but they didn’t,” Byrd said. “The big kid (Robert Williams) stepped up and showed how good he really is … The game came easy for us, and I thought we lost some intensity the last three minutes of the second quarter.”
Williams, a 6-foot-8 junior, dominated in the lane in the second half and finished with 27 points, 16 rebounds and four blocks.
“In the second half, they started missing and couldn’t guard Robert inside and the game changed,” North Caddo coach Ron Meikle said. “Unfortunately we ran out of time. We just fell into too big of a hole. If we had one more quarter, we had a good chance of winning this game. But that’s not how it works.”
No. 5 seed North Caddo (29-4) chipped away, getting as close as 59-52 at the end of the third. Williams scored his team’s last nine points in the quarter. North Caddo guard Kadavion Evans finished with 20 points.
North Caddo cut it to 73-69 with 35.5 seconds left, but Riverside didn’t let it get any closer.
Riverside went 11 of 13 from the free-throw linein the fourth quarter.
Riverside, ranked No. 1 all season long in The New Orleans Advocate Super 10, finished 15 of 33 from beyond the 3-point line. Freshman Jared Butler chipped in nine points.
“I think we did a good job the last three minutes controlling the win,” said Byrd. “It’s tough, but its supposed to be tough.”