Hillside went to Riverside with a lot on the line and the Hornets came away with a sweep. The girls’ 70-40 victory gave the Hornets the PAC-6 regular-season crown, while the boys took a 65-59 win to get back to .500 in conference.
Hillside coach Thurman Jordan said he hopes his team can build on this win and maybe climb another spot in the PAC-6 standings. There is a logjam in the middle of the conference with Hillside (14-8, 5-5 PAC-6) in the middle of it. Everyone but leader East Chapel Hill has at least three conference losses. Jordan thinks his team has a chance to make it into third place in the standings before the end of the regular season.
“We’re in fourth and this win allows us to maintain the lead on the teams behind us,” Jordan said. “We’re going to have to hope that somebody ahead of us slips up and give us a chance to get back into the top three.”
Deiontae Ray led Hillside with 17 points and hit a key free throw in the fourth quarter that helped the Hornets stave off a furious Riverside rally late in the game.
“We needed to win this game to help our playoff chances,” Ray said. “We came out and gave our best effort on defense. Now we’ve got to get ready for our next game.”
The Pirates, who trailed by double digits for most of the game, cut the lead down to 62-56 on an Isaiah Reddish three-point play with a minute to play. Riverside then forced a Hillside turnover by using a full-court press. But the Pirates didn’t take advantage of the gift.
Riverside missed a pair of 3s and then Reddish, who scored a game-high 21 points, missed a shot in the lane in that scramble sequence. And after Hillside secured the rebound, the Hornets were able to get the ball up the court to Traylen Warren for a game-clinching jam that made it 64-56.
Reddish came back and hit a 3 for Riverside with under seven seconds left to play but by then it was too late for the Pirates to finish their rally.
Riverside coach Brian Strickland said it was another close loss for his team.
“We were right there with a minute to play,” Strickland said. “But we got off to such a bad start in the first quarter to put us behind.”
Hillside took advantage of Riverside’s poor start to build a 16-6 first-quarter lead. The Pirates missed six of their first seven shots and also had six turnovers in the opening eight minutes.
But after that, the Pirates stayed relatively close, shaving three points off at halftime to be down 30-23. The teams flip-flopped offensive efficiency in the third and fourth quarters.
Hillside pushed its lead back out to double-digits thanks to a hot start by Derrick Wiley, who hit his first three shots coming out of the locker room, including a 3.
“Derrick is a streaky shooter and we were glad he hit those shots,” Jordan said.
The Hornets led 52-38 after the third quarter.
The fourth quarter belonged to Riverside as it outscored the Hornets 21-13 but it wasn’t enough. Hillside tried to let Riverside back in the game by missing free throws. The Hornets missed their first six free-throw attempts — all on two-shot trips — until Ray hit the front end of another double-bonus opportunity with 4.3 seconds left in the game.
In the girls’ game, Elisia Grissett scored 26 points to lead Hillside to a 70-30 victory, which clinched the PAC-6 regular-season title for Hornets. It’s the 10th time in the last 11 seasons the Hornets have won the regular season and take the top seed into the conference tournament.
Hillside (19-2, 10-0) has two games remaining, while Riverside (10-10, 5-4) has three to play before the conference tournament.
The game was close for the first eight minutes as Hillside edged out to a 21-17 lead. But the second quarter was a disaster for the Pirates, who managed only to score three more points before halftime to trail 40-20 at the intermission.
Hillside went on to outscore the Pirates 30-10 in the second half.
Aijah Perry led Riverside with 11 points.