Boys basketball: Riverside stuns GW in Sectional
CHARLESTON, W.Va. - The fact that the Secondary Schools Activities Commission will celebrate the 100th boys basketball state tournament in two weeks brings to light an important subsequent fact.
While eight teams from each class reach the state tournament, many of the most historic wins in the prep basketball postseason occur in its earliest stages every year.
Such a scenario played out Wednesday night as Riverside junior forward Tyus Wood scored 28 points to lead the Warriors (9-14) to a stunning 64-59 win over host George Washington (18-5) in the Class AAA Region 3, Section 1 semifinals.
"I'm very, very pleased with our boys. As everybody knows, we've been going through a lot lately," Riverside interim coach Chad Metten said. "I know these kids are talented, I know they've got heart and I've been hearing about it, they've been hearing it their whole life, 'It's Riverside that never makes it, never makes it.'
"I told them that if they came out and played their heart out, that GW's a great team and one of the greatest programs in the state the last couple years and they've got one of the best coaches if not the best coach in the state (but) I had a feeling we were more athletic than them, so we tried to take advantage of it."
Metten was in his second game serving as Riverside's interim coach. Warriors coach Dusty Herscher was suspended indefinitely by school principal Valery Harper prior to the team's loss to Beckley on Feb. 7. Metten, an assistant coach under Herscher, is not subject to the suspension that has applied to the rest of Hercher's staff.
Far away from any personnel wrangling that might or might not be continuing at Riverside -- Harper has remained steadfastly mum on the subject since suspending Herscher -- the Warriors went about their plan of isolating GW senior All-State guard Luke Eddy from the rest of the Patriots' lineup Wednesday night.
Riverside applied a diamond-and-one defense on the future Elon University player who averaged 27 points in the regular season, and kept him from getting off a shot until 1:15 remained in the first quarter. The Warriors led only 11-10 entering the second, but it wasn't long before Wood began to assert himself.
"I just always come in and try to play strong. They were looking at me when I was in the post, so I've been working on that all week long," said Wood, who had 13 points and four rebounds in the first half as the Warriors built a 30-19 lead by halftime.
Wood repeatedly was able to use his body control in the paint to get lay-ins against the defense of GW's less athletic interior players.
"Just anybody who was smaller than me, just go over them," Wood said.
As he has done numerous times this season, however, Eddy brought his team back from the brink, and with the help of senior forward Austin Breeden not only kept the game from being a Riverside runaway, but made it a contest as the Warriors inched closer to the upset.
Eddy had 14 of his team-high 23 points in the second half, and Breeden -- who finished with 15 points and seven rebounds -- tied the game at 51-51 with 3:49 left in the fourth quarter when he hit a lay-in off a feed from Eddy.
Riverside, who turned the ball over just four times in the first half, committed five turnovers in the third quarter to facilitate the GW comeback.
"I told them that I didn't care if I had to have to call a play all night," Metten said. "If we could just run them and take care of the ball we'd be fine."
Riverside settled down again down the stretch, looking little like a team that had lost nearly two-thirds of its regular-season games. Sophomore guard Tamar Lawson hit a 3-pointer just after Breeden's tying bucket, and the Warriors never led by fewer than three points the rest of the way.
"They hit shots and they played well. I thought that when we caught them and maybe had them on the ropes, but you know, I just didn't have the kids as prepared as I thought I had them," GW coach Rick Greene said. "It's nothing on our kids, I thought our kids played really hard. They did all they could do."
George Washington's streak of three consecutive State Tournament appearances and two straight Class AAA state championship game appearances came to an end with the loss.
Coincidentally, defending state champion Hedgesville was also eliminated Wednesday night in a 58-54 loss to Washington in a Region 2, Section 1 semifinal.
Cameron Hoston had 11 points and 12 rebounds for GW in the loss.
Riverside, which plays at South Charleston (21-2) on Friday night in the Region 3, Section 1 championship, also got double-digit scoring from Nick Light. He finished with a double-double of his own, scoring 13 points and grabbing 10 rebounds.
Contact Preps Editor Derek Taylor at email@example.com or 304-348-5170. Follow him on Twitter @ItsreallyDT