When taking on Dunham in the semifinals of the Division III state basketball tournament on Wednesday, Riverside Academy will be facing a team similar in style to the Rebels.
“They kind of play the way we play. They like to shoot the three. They like to get out in transition and they like to put up a lot of shots. It’s a lot of dribble-drive and kick-type action,” said Riverside coach Timmy Byrd.
When the teams square off at 11:30 a.m. at Burton Coliseum in Lake Charles, the Rebels will face a defending state champion that is one of the top teams in the stage, regardless of class, according to Byrd.
“They are probably one of the best three teams in the state of Louisiana in any class,” the Riverside coach said.
Dunham’s resume may just solidify Byrd’s assessment. On Dunham’s way to a 28-6 record, the Tigers finished second to Bishop Loughlin of Brooklyn, N.Y., in the Boys’ National Bracket of the prestigious Sugar Bowl National Prep Classic.
The Tigers, as the top seed in the Division III playoff bracket, drew a double-bye before defeating Catholic High of New Iberia 91-47 in the quarterfinals.
After a 3-8 start, Riverside has rebounded to even its record at 16-16. After an opening-round bye, the Rebels downed The Church Academy 101-42 and Holy Savior Menard 67-51 in the quarterfinals to advance to Lake Charles.
Tops among a six-man rotation in which all players can play more than one position for Dunham is 6-foot-5 Jordan Wright.
“He’s an off-guard type player. He can play inside and outside. He likes to shoot the three. He has pretty good athleticism. He handles the pretty good,” Byrd said of Wright.
Another top player is 6-foot sophomore guard Carlos Stewart.
“He shoots it deep. He has a really good jump shot and he’s really fast with the ball. He does a good job finishing at the rim. He’s a complete player. He does it all,” Byrd said of Stewart.
The Tigers play mostly man-to-man but defense is not what Dunham is particularly known for, according to Byrd.
“They are a man team that will occasionally go to a 1-3-1 zone,” Byrd explained. “I think they hang their hat on their offensive ability. They have a good defense. I wouldn’t say they have a great defense.”
A win by Dunham would put the Tigers in the championship game for a third year in a row. Last year, Dunham nipped Episcopal 49-48 to win the state title. A year earlier, the Tigers lost in the finals 71-40 to Country Day.
Like this year’s Dunham team, Riverside drew a double-bye in last year’s tournament before falling 68-67 to Episcopal in a semifinal game with an early start time.
“Last year, I think it cost us,” said Byrd. “It was probably one of the factors we got upset last year. It’s hard getting your team ready to play at 10 or 11 o’clock. It’s a different dynamic. You don’t play games like that unless you are in the losers’ bracket in a tournament. When you get to this level, most of these teams are not in the losers’ bracket of tournaments, so you are not used to playing at those times.”
What will it take for the Rebels to overcome another early start and a defending state champion?
“We have to limit our turnovers and we have to rebound. If we do those two things, we like our chances,” Byrd said.