Riverside slips past GW 64-59
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Some way, somehow, Riverside has been able to keep its team on the same page through all the turmoil that has swirled around the program, and the players were rewarded Wednesday night.
Junior forward Tyus Wood poured in 26 points and grabbed eight rebounds as the visiting Warriors upset state-ranked George Washington 64-59 in the semifinals of the Class AAA Region 3 Section 1 tournament in front of a crowd of about 400.
The third-seeded Warriors (9-14), whose head coach was suspended three weeks ago, face top-seeded and No. 3 South Charleston (21-2) in the section championship at 7 p.m. Friday at the SC Community Center. Riverside has already ensured itself of a spot in the regionals since both teams from the section finals move on.
Second-seeded GW (18-5), No. 6 in the final Associated Press poll, had advanced the past two years to the state championship game, losing last year after winning it all in 2011. The Patriots shaded Riverside by three points during the regular season.
Riverside never trailed Wednesday and was only tied twice while shooting 53.3 percent (24 of 45) and winning its biggest game of the year. The Warriors held a 30-19 advantage at halftime and saw their lead balloon to as many as 15 points (44-29) in the third quarter before withstanding a furious rally by GW.
Riverside coach Dusty Herscher and his staff were suspended indefinitely and Principal Valery Harper has declined to elaborate why or how long the suspension will last. Harper did acknowledge that the Warriors' Jan. 30 home victory against Parkersburg was forfeited for use of an ineligible player.
When Herscher and his staff were suspended, Scott Garretson, the current Riverside girls coach, and former Warriors boys coach Danny Hill stepped in for two games. Chad Metten was named the interim boys coach two weeks ago.
Metten, who was part of Herscher's staff, played at Davis & Elkins from 2000-03. Metten's first game as head coach was Riverside's 60-59 loss at Nitro in the MSAC sixth-place game Friday. Garretson has remained as an assistant to Metten.
"We just tried to stay as a team,'' said Wood, who shot 9 of 17 from the field and converted all seven of his free-throw attempts. "Just a big family like we say we are. Just picking each other up when we were down.''
Patriots senior guard and state player of the year candidate Luke Eddy scored seven of his 23 points in less than a minute at the end of the third period to cut the deficit to three points (44-41) heading into the final period.
After GW senior guard Austin Breeden netted five straight points on a 3-pointer and layup to knot the game at 51-all, Riverside responded with a 6-0 run to go in front 57-51 behind a 3 from Tamar Lawson, Wood's two foul shots and Reed's free throw.
"Give Coach Metten and Coach Garretson credit for getting that thing together and getting them to play like that,'' said GW coach Rick Greene. "They hit shots. I thought when we caught them maybe we had them on the ropes, and they answered. I thought our kids played really hard and did all they could do.''
The Patriots pulled within two points (60-58) one last time on freshman post Cameron Hoston's three-point play on a putback and free throw. Wood then came right back, nailing both ends of a 1-plus-1 for a 62-58 edge with 26.7 seconds remaining.
Breeden was fouled with 11.3 seconds to go and made the back end of a two-shot foul for a three-point deficit (62-59). The Patriots couldn't find anybody to foul on the inbound and Wood swooped in uncontested for a layup with 5.2 seconds left to set the final score. Eddy put up a 3 in vain just inside the half-court line, but missed.
Eddy, who was hounded all night by Riverside freshman Quan Brock and sophomore Lawson and met a wall of players whenever he drove to the lane, made just 7 of 22 shots, including 1 of 8 from long range.
"They've gone through a lot lately,'' said Metten of his players. "I know these kids are talented and I know they have heart. They've been hearing that their whole lives, but it's the Riverside that never makes it.
"They're playing for the name on that chest, Riverside. They're tired of hearing, 'Riverside full of talent, can't win the big one.' This is only step one, though. I had a feeling we were more athletic than [GW] so we tried to take advantage of it. The boys listened and played hard.''
Riverside senior center Nick Light added 15 points and 10 rebounds while senior point guard Marcus Reed contributed eight points, five boards and four assists. Lawson chipped in nine points.
Breeden finished with 15 points and seven boards for GW and Hoston contributed 11 points and 10 rebounds.
Metten said he hasn't heard anything about the Riverside coaching situation.
"All I know is I'm interim head coach right now till further notice,'' he said. "I don't even know where they're at with all that. I have no idea. I came back for the kids. They needed somebody, so I came back for them.''
Reach Tommy R. Atkinson at email@example.com or 304-348-4811.