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Bears shock Eagles
By STEVE FRANZELLO / THE FREE LANCE–STAR
The Riverbend boys basketball team closed the regular season with six losses in its last seven games.
Before the Bears defeated Albemarle in their final contest, they had dropped six straight.
But after Friday night’s gritty 65–58 victory over No. 3 seed Colonial Forge in the Commonwealth District quarterfinals, coach Eric Davis’s No. 6 Bears are riding a wave of confidence.
“When you get to the playoffs, it’s a new season and new energy,” said Davis. “This is a tough league and you have to bring it every night, and tonight we did.”
Playing with a newfound confidence, Riverbend (13–10) used a balanced offense led by district scoring leader Elijah Brown, who finished with 18 points, and one of its best overall performances of the season to advance to the semifinal round.
On Tuesday, the Bears will travel to North Stafford to take on the second-seeded Wolverines, who defeated Massaponax on Friday,
The loss ends one of the best seasons in Colonial Forge’s history. The Eagles (15–8) earned the tournament’s third seed with a
12–4 district mark—a big improvement on last year’s 4–12 record.
“Everybody came together for us this year,” said Eagles senior Ignacio Alleyne. “We came up a little short, but we made a new leap for Colonial Forge basketball and showed that we’re not just a football school.”
The Eagles appeared to have things in hand early against the Bears.
Alleyne scored two of his team-high 16 points to open the scoring and the Eagles built a 6–0 lead with their athletic play. But after Marco Haskins drained a 3-pointer at the three-minute mark, the Bears came to life.
Brown’s buzzer-beating 3-point basket from the top put them in front 18–13 at the end of the quarter and they never trailed again.
“We had two really good practices before this game and it really helped us get going,” said Bears senior Chris Baird.
Baird buried four 3-pointers and scored 14 points to join Brown in double figures. He was one of the big catalysts in Riverbend’s ability to come back and then fight off the Eagles late in the game.
Several other Bears played key roles in their success.
Sophomore guard Zach Sims and junior forward Tyler Duncan helped spark a 15–8 scoring run in the second quarter that resulted in a 33–21 lead for Riverbend at the half.
Sims, who scored 11 points, ended the first-half scoring with another 3-pointer, while Duncan kept Riverbend competitive under the backboards with 11 rebounds and four blocks.
“The first half, especially the second quarter, was big for us,” said Davis. “I thought we came out and established some chemistry with the way we moved the ball. And Chris gave us a big lift with his shooting.”
Down by double-digits, Colonial Forge began to rally in the second half behind Haskins and Gary Jennings (11 points).
Isiah Williams’ reverse layup pulled the Eagles to within five points at the end of the third quarter after Alleyne had picked up his fourth foul.
The fourth quarter turned into a test of endurance and the Bears prevailed, thanks to their composure and some cold shooting by Colonial Forge in the closing minutes.
Haskins’ 3-pointer narrowed the Riverbend lead to 61–58 with 45 seconds left. But in the final seconds, Sims and Brown both converted clutch free throws to seal the victory for the Bears.
“We were confident and we got everybody involved tonight,” Sims said. “It really clicked for us.”
Davis knows the Bears have their work cut out for them on Tuesday, but likes his team’s chances.
“It’s going to be tough,” Davis said. “It’s going to take a team effort, but we’re going to give it our best shot.”
Riverbend 18 15 13 19 — 65
Colonial Forge 13 8 20 17 — 58
Riverbend (13–10): Chris Baird 14, Elijah Brown 18, Buck Buchanan 9, Tomas Cibak 2, Garrison Davis 2, Tyler Duncan 1, Michael Holmes 0, Markell Lewis 0, David McCauley 0, Darnell Rife 8, Zach Sims 11. Totals: 24 11-17 65.
Colonial Forge (15–8): Ignacio Alleyne 16, Winston Burgess 4, T.J. Flood 3, Jalen Frazier 6, Javon Frazier 0, Austin Hall 0, Marco Haskins 13, Gary Jennings 11, Phillip King 0, Rob Loving 0, DeMarious Quick 1, Derek Riley 0, Isiah Williams 4. Totals: 21 13-25 58.
Three-point goals: Riverbend 6 (C. Baird 4, E. Brown, Z. Sims). Colonial Forge 3 (M. Haskins 2, G. Jennings).
Steve Franzello: 540/374-5440