It was a classic boys basketball matchup of opposites. University High had the height advantage. Riverside Academy was smaller and quicker.
Instead of a battle of wills, it was a question of who would win the fourth quarter. And Class 2A Riverside had the answers in the nondistrict battle of two of the state’s top teams.
The Rebels parlayed a 14-0 fourth-quarter run into a 81-69 victory over U-High on Thursday night at UHS’ Pennington-McKernan gym.
“All our goals for the most part are still ahead of us,” University coach Joe Spencer said. “We have to finish up district strong. … We’ve got three games left. A game like this is going to help us.
“Everybody is playing hard. It’s a big crowd and the intensity level is raised by everybody. They kept playing hard, and they play at one speed. And if you can’t match them, they’re going to keep pushing the ball. They’re tough to handle.”
What made the 14-0 run by Riverside so impressive was that neither team had managed to run away from the other. It was RA’s fourth win over UHS during the past three seasons.
U-High of Class 3A led 63-61 going into the fourth quarter after the Cubs’ Skylar Mays drove down the middle and scored on a layup.
That basket with 9.2 seconds remaining the in third quarter was the last for the Cubs until the 2:30 mark of the fourth quarter when Wayde Sims scored on a layup.
“We really locked down in the halfcourt and stopped penetration (in the fourth quarter),” Riverside coach Timmy Byrd said. “Malik (Crowfield) was huge. He kept us in it in the first half. We did what we do. Our kids are just really tough mentally and physically. I think they got tired. We had a 41-point halftime score, which is what we wanted. We didn’t want to give up 40, but we didn’t feel like they could run with us.”
Crowfield finished with 20 points. Herb McGee and Jordan Andrews each had 17 points for Class 2A Riverside (22-6), while Von Julien added 13 and eight assists. Sims led U-High with 20 points and seven rebounds. DJ White had 15 and Jalen Johnson 12 for the Cubs (25-4).
Andrews helped jump start the Riverside surge in the final quarter with a 3-pointer and a layup. Two baskets by Anderson, a layup by McGee set the stage for a 3-pointer by Malik Crowfield from the baseline.
Crowfield’s second 3-pointer of the night gave the Rebels a 75-63 at the 2:52 mark that was too much for the Cubs to overcome.
It was a different game early. Crowfield’s 3-pointer from the top of the key tied it at 10 with 4:22 left in the first quarter.
U-High surged ahead by scoring six of the next eight points. Back-to-back 3-pointers by Marshall Graves and DJ White gave UHS a 16-12 lead with 3:32 left. The Cubs held the upper hand until Andrews sank a 3-pointer with 58.8 seconds remaining.
Riverside took a 19-18 lead into the second quarter. Crowfield was a steady presence for Riverside. He took advantage of U-High’s rebounding lapses to score on three tip ins.
The Cubs held a 32-26 lead with 3:20 left in the half. John Jones tacked on a layup that upped the UHS lead to eight points. Back-to-back tip-ins by Crowfield cut the UHS lead to four points. He also drove to the basket for another score.
U-High held the lead until Anderson scored on a layup with 9.4 seconds remaining. That bucket gave them their one-point halftime lead.
The teams battled through the third quarter. Riverside raced ahead by five, but Johnson evened it at 51 on a 3-pointer with 4:36 left. The Cubs surged ahead by five but RA tied it on a layup by Julien seconds before Mays’ go ahead basketball.