Two inches and a swirl.
That’s all Jordan’s Hannah Williams needed for a 3-pointer to tie the score at the game-ending buzzer. Instead, her long shot bounced, in tantalizing fashion, off the rim, and visiting Riverside survived a huge fourth period surge by the Falcons to win 43-40 in a PAC-6 Conference game Tuesday night.
It was a huge victory for the Pirates, who have endured a difficult stretch this season.
“We decided that we were going to play each game to the best of our ability and that was it. We were putting so much pressure on ourselves,” said Riverside coach Alicia Jones.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The News & Observer
“One of our top players, Ashuauntee Nelson, is out, she should be coming back this week,” which was a blow to the team’s confidence, Jones said. Then there was a three-loss John Wall Holiday Invitational.
“We lost our heart. We lost our spirit,” Jones said.
It wasn’t showing for most of Tuesday’s game. They were leading comfortably 35-23 after three periods. But the Falcons went on a 17-8 run in the final period before running out of time.
“I keep telling them basketball is like waves. Sometimes you’re going to be on top of the wave. Sometimes you’re going to be under the wave. It’s not the amount of the wave. It’s riding the wave all the way out,” Jones said of the Jordan comeback bid. Her players kept their composure, and that helped preserve the victory.
She said Nala Terry was “definitely our field general tonight. I think she was the one who triggered everybody.” Terry pumped in 10 points. Aijah Perry “played big factors,” Jones said, scoring 14 points. Abira Reddish had eight offensive rebounds in the first half, and Sophia Birchoff “had some key blocks.”
“Give Riverside credit. They came out and just made us become stagnant form the beginning of the game,” Jordan coach Ty Cox said. “We kind of got it going in the fourth quarter, but a little too little too late.”
Cox took the early struggles in stride.
“When you have seven of your 10 varsity players being freshmen and sophomores, you’re going to have that sometimes. It’s just a process,” he said. “We’re 10-3, and we’re going to have some games like that. … I think just how we were playing was dictated by their defense.”
It is the third straight time Jordan has lost to Riverside, Cox said. Prior to that the Falcons had won five straight, he said.
Talia Barnes had 14 points for Jordan to tie Perry for the game high.
“She to me is the best unsigned player in the state. She’s been like that all season,” Cox said of Barnes.
“She’s averaging a double-double,” and had one 25-rebound game, he said. “Colleges coaches are calling me every day about her, and e-mailing me.”
Barnes also played a defensive role in the game, an example of which occurred with less than 30 seconds remaining in the first half.
Jordan’s Ni’Amoni Bagley drilled a 3-pointer to narrow the deficit to 21-17, and Imani Howard and Barnes came up with consecutive blocked shots to end the half.
The Falcons made it interesting at the end of the game. With 45 seconds remaining Ashaunti Parker intercepted an inbounds pass at Riverside’s end of the court and ran it all the way to the other end for a layup. Jori Wilks then put in a free throw to make it 41-40, before Perry pumped in a pair of free throws to seal the deal for Riverside.
In the boys game Jordan won 66-59 despite a game-high 34-point scoring assault from Riverside’s Isaiah Reddish.
The see-saw game last saw the Pirates with the 34-33 lead and 14 seconds remaining on the second period clock when Christian Johnson sank a free throw. Johnson went 2-2 from the free throw line at 1:34 of the third period to pull his team to within a point of Jordan, 46-45, but that was as close as it would get the rest of the game.
Reddish had a couple of nifty slam dunks during the game. Jordan’s Dayday Edwards had a highlight reel play with 6:01 remaining in the game when he followed up a missed shot, soaring through the air, and reached out with one hand as far as he could to snag the ball and somehow redirect his arm to drop in a layup as he flew past the basket.