Riverside Academy coach Timmy Byrd was screaming at his players at the end of the third quarter after Country Day had cut a 15-point lead to eight points.
When the fourth quarter began, Rebels guard Jared Butler hit a long 3-pointer after four passes by his teammates. On the next possession Butler, an Alabama signee, threw a no-look pass from the top of the key to guard Garland Robertson, who had cut back door.
The ship righted, Riverside built a 13-point lead and held on for a 68-61 victory and the championship of the Country Day Tournament on Saturday.
“(Byrd) told us to stop fooling around,” said Butler, who scored 20 points and was selected the tournament's Most Valuable Player. “We had to refocus, and we got it done.”
Country Day beat Riverside, its District 12-2A rival, three times last season, including in the semifinals of the state playoffs on its way to the championship.
“We had a 15-point lead at halftime (41-26), and we just relaxed in the third quarter,” Byrd said. “Country Day is too well-coached and too good of a team for that. I like that we won the tournament, but I don't like how we played in the second half of this game.”
County Day still had a chance. The Cajuns got within 60-57 on a baseline jump shot by Ross Talbot with 3:07 left in the game, but Robertson answered with a 3-pointer and Isiah Bigham drove for a fast-break basket with 1:31 left for a 65-57 lead, all but sealing the outcome.
Trailing 44-29 with 6:33 left in the third quarter, the Cajuns battled back to 53-45 by the end of the quarter.
“We started hitting shots, and we stopped their offensive rebounding,” Cajuns coach Mike McGuire said. “They killed Landry-Walker and Scotlandville, which are really good teams, with their offensive rebounding. So, once we rebounded better, it gave us a chance.”
With its drives to the basket, 3-point shooting and aggressive defense, Riverside surged to its big halftime lead. The Rebels sank seven 3-pointers and shot 12-of-14 from the free-throw line.
Being guarded far out on the perimeter, Country Day didn't make a 3-pointer. When they were effective driving to the basket and drawing fouls, they didn't cash in, going just 8-of-14 on free throws.
Country Day, though, scrapped and trimmed a 30-18 lead to 34-25 at 1:16 of the second quarter. However, Butler scored all the points in a 7-1 burst to end the half.
Riverside Academy 19 22 12 15 - 68
Country Day 9 17 19 16 – 61
Riverside: Jared Butler 20, Isiah Bigham 16, Garland Robertson 15, Jalen Banks 6, Kash Foley 5, Jeremiah Bigham 2, Jonathan Loving 2.
Country Day: Kaleb Jenkins 17, Justin Ibieta 16, Shawn Royal 15, Christian Becnel 5, Ross Talbot 4, Clinton Nicholas 4.
All-Tournament team: Jared Butler, Riverside, MVP; Ja'vonte Smart, Scotlandville, Collin Holloway, Catholic High, Jalen Banks, Riverside, Kaleb Jenkins, Country Day, Mark Bowie, Karr.