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Boys basketball: Third-quarter run leads Beckley past Riverside

BECKLEY, W.Va. -- Through a season punctuated by turmoil, Riverside was unable to maintain the pace of the state's hottest Class AAA boys basketball team.

The Warriors fell short of the second State Tournament appearance in school history when Andrew Johnson scored 24 points and added eight assists to lead Beckley to a 79-61 Region 3 co-final victory at the Beckley Raleigh County Convention Center on Tuesday.

Beckley secured its 17th consecutive victory and its 31st State Tournament berth since the emergence of the three-class system in 1959 using a decisive depth advantage and four third-quarter 3-pointers against a 2-3 zone to send the Warriors (10-14) to their ninth loss in the last 13 games.

It didn't come easy until the third quarter for the Flying Eagles (21-4), who will await the release of the seeds on Friday to determine their spot in the State Tournament on March 13-16. Beckley steamrolled Riverside 88-45 on Feb. 7 at Quincy.

"Scary, you just never know about kids and how they're going to respond," said Beckley Coach Ron Kidd, whose team made 14-of-36 shots in the first half and 14-of-25 in the second. "I thought our kids responded from the end of the second quarter. Even though we got on them hard coming in (halftime), I felt we got rolling right there."

Riverside was living on borrowed time in the first half when Beckley was just 4-of-14 against a 2-3 zone. Those same attempts fell in the third when the hosts were 4-of-8 and got out to a 51-42 lead midway through the quarter.

The explanation was fairly simple for the Warriors, who held a 25-19 lead halfway through the second quarter despite have 11 of their 18 turnovers to that point.

"We couldn't play man to man, we knew we would have to sit in a zone," Riverside interim coach Chad Metten said. "They started making the shots in the second half that they weren't making in the first half. That's what good teams do. They find ways to put away their opponent."

It began with 2:12 left in the first half when two Johnson 3-pointers sandwiched a Nick Light basket to trim Riverside's lead to one. The Warriors led 35-32 when Brent Osborne scored two of his 11 points and Nequan Carrington had two of his 15 to give Beckley the lead.

Junior Donte Nabors had 16 points and had seven rebounds, one of three Beckley players with at least six boards.

Riverside senior guard Marcus Reed and senior forward Nick Light kept the visitors close, scoring 18 of their 35 first-half points.

"I felt like in the first half, when we weren't as tired, we got our hands up quicker," said Reed, who had four assists. "In the second half you could tell we were getting tired because we don't have as much depth as they have."

Five Beckley players had at least one of its nine 3-pointers, with two apiece going to Chase Hancock and Osborne in the decisive third quarter.

Beckley took the lead for good 43-40 on a Johnson 3-point play. A baseline basket from Light cut the lead back to one for the last time, as Osborne's back-to-back 3-pointers forced Riverside to call a timeout that couldn't stem the tide.

The lead was extended to 10 late in the third and the Flying Eagles cruised, finally scoring 11 of the game's final 13 points.

The Riverside loss marked the end of a tumultuous season that held a lot of promise under Coach Dusty Herscher, who offered the guidance of a stabling force not recently available at the Quincy school.

Riverside reached the State Tournament in 2002 under Jim Fout. However, the next decade held losing seasons and bouts with coaching instability.

This year, the Warriors finished with their best record since 2002 after a 4-1 start, the only loss being a hard-fought 48-42 decision to South Charleston at Quincy. Riverside followed with a 25-point rout of Capital, but, two games later, were humbled in the return matchup with the Black Eagles by a 80-48 score.

The downward spiral commenced, with no more winning streaks and two four-game losing skids.

Following the Ripley game on Feb. 4, the coaching staff - Herscher and assistants Matt Kelly and Pat Jones - were suspended after allegedly allowing an ineligible player to participate in the previous game against Parkersburg.

Riverside girls coach Scott Garretson guided the Warriors against Beckley (an 88-45 loss) and Greater Beckley Christian (a 59-45 win). Enter the head coach at St. Albans' McKinley Middle School, Metten, who coached Riverside to a 60-59 loss to Nitro in the Mountain State Athletic Conference playoffs, a 64-59 win over George Washington in the sectionals and an 80-50 loss to South Charleston in the sectional finals before Tuesday's defeat.

"Everything we've been through, they stuck together," Metten said. "Any other boys I know would not do that. Emotional rollercoaster with this team has been amazing, up and down, because of everything that's going on. I came back for them. A few of them are mad at me right now, and I understand that's how it is. I couldn't be more proud of those boys."

Contact Assistant Sports Editor Rich Stevens at richstevens@dailymail.com or 304-348-4837.


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