Riverside managed to extract revenge from a home loss earlier in the season to Northern when they walked into the Knights building and pulled off a 76-75 upset.
Northern used a fired up crowd to their advantage in the first quarter, jumping out to a 25-17 lead thanks to 6/11 shooting from beyond the arc. The second quarter didn’t get any better for Riverside as they were held to nine points and a 40-26 deficit heading into the locker room.
Things changed in the third quarter, and it started with Riverside’s defense. The Pirates forced seven turnovers in the third and held Northern to just nine points in the quarter, while scoring 27 of their own.
“Northern came out firing and took advantage of our lack of defensive intensity and execution,” said Riverside coach Brian Strickland. “We jumped on them at halftime. We wanted to execute better defensively and it all started in the third quarter. I give my guys for credit for answering the call.”
Riverside led for most of the fourth quarter, which was turned into a free throw shooting contest in the first four minutes.
Down by three with 30 seconds left, Northern guard Eric Stokes missed a three to tie the game, but Jerod Bradley came up with the offensive rebound. He immediately kicked to to Ricky Council IV, who knocked down the corner three to tie it at 75 with 13 seconds remaining.
Northern attempted to trap Christian Johnson in the backcourt following the inbounds, but were whistled for the foul. Johnson knocked down one of two from the line to put Riverside up by one with under 10-seconds.
A clock issue, which saw Northern gain an extra two seconds prior to the final possession, delayed the game a bit. Following the delay, Johnson, who scored 10 points in the fourth, had the ball in his hands with a chance to win it.
He immediately attacked the basket, but his shot in the paint rimed out. Omarion Jay had two tries at an offensive put back, but his first one missed and his second one came after the buzzer.
“If people play harder than you, they’re going to beat you,” said Northern coach Ronnie Russell. “They just played harder in the second half. We got away from the things that we were doing good.”
Riverside had four players in double-figures and were led by Isaiah Reddish with 25 points. Eric Stokes led Northern with 19 points.
The game ended up coming down to free throws. Northern shot 16 of 28 from the line while Riverside hit 30 of 37, including 10 of 12 in the final four minutes.
“For our guys to step up to the line time and time again and hit those clutch foul shots was huge for us. It says a lot about our composure and were we’ve come from the start of the year,” said Strickland.
In the girls game, Riverside had no problem with Northern as it won 57-34.
Riverside started off sluggish, trailing after one 6-5, but used a dominating second half to win comfortably. Riverside coach Alicia Jones was not happy with her team's effort to start, and jokingly blamed it on her kids being too smart.
“We have a lot of smart girls,” said Jones. “They were able to miss exams yesterday and today, so they slept in and just got too much rest and it led to a sluggish start.”