The years change.
The results don’t.
Riverside is headed back to the championship game of the Allstate Sugar Bowl National Prep Classic.
Riverside delivered what looked like a first-half knockout, then withstood a late Landry-Walker rally in a 54-46 victory in the tournament semifinals.
It’s the fourth straight year and fifth time in the tournament’s six-year history that Riverside is in the championship game.
“I’m proud of the fact that we were able to get back to the finals,” Riverside coach Timmy Byrd said. “We have been able to do it this year with a team with just three seniors and a lot of young kids. It’s satisfying that we have gone through the gauntlet and beat three really good teams.”
Riverside beat West Jefferson and Lafayette Christian in the first two rounds before handling Landry-Walker in a game that didn’t quite live up to the hype.
It was the 11th straight win for Riverside (11-3). The Rebels will play in Saturday’s 8 p.m. championship game against the winner of Friday’s late game between Karr and Scotlandville.
Malik Crowfield led the Rebels with a game-high 21 points. Crowfield had to leave the game with 3:39 remaining with a gash over his eye in the fourth quarter, but Riverside was in control by then.
Landry-Walker led 10-9 at the end of the first quarter, but Riverside sophomore Jared Butler jump-started the Rebels in the second. Butler hit a 3-pointer and was fouled for a four-point play to start the quarter, then followed it up with another 3-pointer. Crowfield then drained a 3-pointer and the Rebels were all of a sudden up 19-10.
Landry-Walker didn’t do much to help its cause.
The Charging Buccaneers went without a field goal in the second quarter and was outscored 15-2. Landry-Walker’s only points in the quarter came on a pair of free throws by Lamar Peters with 1:29 left. Before that, Landry-Walker missed its first eight free throws to start the game and finished the game 6 of 20 from the line.
“I knew we were going to play better defense because Thursday we weren’t focused on defense,” Byrd said. “Herb (Magee) and Malik never have back-to-back bad games. Ever. We went back to fundamentals and were much more alert tonight.”
The two free throws by Peters were his first points of the game, just one night after his scorching night from the floor when he made 10 3-pointers against University High.
Landry-Walker finished 6 of 33 on 3-pointers.
“We couldn’t make a bucket,” Landry-Walker coach Brian Gibson said. “Last night we made everything. We knew we needed to shoot well against them. I thought we fought well at the end, but we didn’t shoot well enough at the beginning to give ourselves a chance. Hats off to Riverside.”
Butler finished with 14 points and Herb McGee had 11 for the Rebels.
Peters, a Mississippi State signee, led Landry-Walker with 16 points before fouling out with 1:07 left. Khalil Williams and Malik Legania had nine points each for the 2-time defending Class 4A state champs who are competing in 5A this season.
Landry-Walker got as close as 52-46 with less than a minute left, but could get no closer.
“We told the kids the only way we get beat is beat ourselves,” Byrd said. “I’m proud of my guys. They have a unique way of winning different ways. I think the key was the second quarter when we didn’t give up a field goal.”