While the first half might have been close between Riverside and Higgins in the first semifinal game Sunday in the Holy Cross Christmas Classic, the Rebels pulled away from the Hurricanes in the third quarter en route to a 67-56 win.
With the win, Riverside will play the winner between John Curtis and Landry-Walker on Monday at 7:30 p.m.
Von Julien led Riverside (6-3) with 21 points while Malik Crowfield had 17. Herbert McGee had 14, while Jordan Andrew chipped in 13.
Melvin Frazier led Higgins (10-6) with 21 points, while Tevyn Wade and Davion Sullivan had 10 points apiece.
While Higgins had the size advantage, Riverside coach Timmy Byrd said that is nothing unusual.
“The bottom line is, most teams are going to be bigger than us,” Byrd said. “The real good teams are bigger than us. We have not had a problem rebounding or stopping other big kids if we play assignment basketball.”
Sullivan scored the game’s first points when he stole the ball and scored with 7:11 left in the first that gave Higgins a 2-0 lead.
Riverside’s Joe Anderson scored his only points when he had a layup on a fast break with 10 seconds left in the second to give his team a 33-27 advantage.
That lead grew bigger in the third when the Rebels opened the period with an 8-1 run for a 41-28 lead. Andrews capped the scoring surge with a 3-pointer with 4:52 left.
Byrd said getting timely 3-pointers aided his team in building distance between the Hurricanes.
“We got a couple of stops when we made some shots,” said Byrd. “We made some timely threes.
“In the first half, we did a terrible job. We settled on threes, and we didn’t get to the free-throw line ,and we didn’t draw any fouls on them in the first half. In the second half, we wanted to try and create some lanes against their zone. We picked their zone. We were able to get a couple of buckets, and we did get a couple of consecutive stops.”
However, Byrd said those stops were for short periods of time.
Riverside extended its lead to 50-36 when Crowfield stole the ball, made a basket and later completed the three-point play with 1:07 left.
The Hurricanes cut the deficit to 50-40 when Frazier made two consecutive trips to the free throw line and made all four shots.
Higgins coach Marshall Jackson said his team did not match Riverside’s physicality.
“We played against a top-notch team,” he said. “They’re a very good team. That’s going to be something that’s going to be able to help us throughout the year. We have a tough district, and I think that’s going to make us better in district play.”