Limiting turnovers and rebounding were two elements Riverside Academy coach Timmy Byrd as the keys to his team’s success going into the Rebels’ Division III semifinal game against Dunham.
A couple of things he didn’t mention were a hot 3-point shooter for Dunham and avoiding foul trouble.
The sharpshooter, Ty Spurlock, knocked down five 3-pointers and early foul trouble put the Rebels in a quick bind and Riverside never could recover in a 79-63 loss on Wednesday morning at Burton Coliseum in Lake Charles.
“We didn’t game plan for the sixth man coming off the bench and scoring 25 points against us. We had five or six game films on him and he barely tried to shoot threes and he was five of seven on the 3-point line,” Riverside coach Timmy Byrd said of Spurlock. “We did a great job on Jordan Wright and Carlos Stewart. We got everything we were looking for there.
“Against Dunham, you’ve got to have at least three, maybe four, guys show up in the stat sheet having really good games for us. Kash (Foley) and Isaiah (Bigham) had big games for us but we didn’t get what we needed from our other guys to overcome Spurlock’s 25 coming off the bench.
Riverside, the No. 4 seed, saw its season come to an end with a 16-17 mark.
Top-seed Dunham (22-5), the defending Division III state champions, advance to the title game at 10 a.m. Saturday against Country Day. The Cajuns, the No. 2 seed, won Wednesday’s other semifinal game with a 52-37 victory over Episcopal, the No. 3 seed.
It will mark the third year in a row for Dunham to reach the state championship game. Along with nipping Episcopal 49-48 last year, Tigers lost in the finals 71-40 to Country Day in 2017.
Featuring a rotation of basically seven players, the Rebels saw Foley and Gage Larvadain each pick their third fouls by late in the second quarter. Larvadian picked up his fourth foul less than three minutes into the second half.
“That was the killer. The foul trouble really hurt us,” Byrd said. “For the most part, I thought we took care of the basketball. I think we rebounded well enough to win.
“We played our sixth, seventh and eighth man. We got down by 10 points and we were trying to sub defense for offense. When we come in with our two subs, we are kind of small.”
Riverside (16-17) grabbed an early lead when a basket by Foley while being fouled and his subsequent free throw gave the Rebels an 8-7 lead in the first quarter.
A basket by Foley with less than three minutes remaining in the opening quarter gave Riverside a 13-12 edge before a pair of 3-pointers Spurlock late in the quarter allowed Dunham to take a 20-13 lead after one period of play.
“We really were in control of the first quarter,” Byrd said. “At the end of the first quarter, we had four-straight calls against us by the same referee that we thought were terrible calls. They called some ticky-tack fouls and it was four in a row. The game went from us being up one to them being up seven.
“It did two things. It shifted the momentum and at the end of the first quarter, we are in foul trouble.”
A three-point play on a basket and free throw by Dunham’s Carlos Stewart pushed the Tigers’ lead to 12 points at 27-15 less than two minutes into the second quarter.
Dunham led 41-26 at halftime and Rebels were not able to cut down the deficit, trailing 58-43 after three quarters on their way to the 79-63 defeat.
Foley finished with 17 points to lead Riverside while Bigham chipped in 16. Larvadain was limited to less than 20 minutes of action due to foul trouble and finished with nine points.
Spurlock led all scorers with 25 points. Stewart added 18 for Dunham and Desean Woods 14.
Although the Rebels finished 16-17 on the year, the trip to the semifinals was a far cry from Riverside’s 3-8 start to the season.
“I was really proud of our seniors – Brian Walker, Kash Foley and Isaiah Bigham,” Byrd said. “I thought they provided great leadership down the stretch and turned our season around. I thought Gage Larvadain was big all year and DeJuan Daniels, the last month, just came on.
“I’m excited about what we did. We came up a little bit short but I love my players and they are just great kids and they laid it on the line for us. I’m really proud of our team.”