With every trip to the free throw line late in Friday’s game, Riverside Military inched closer and closer to locking up its biggest region victory.
Already holding a sizeable lead late in the fourth quarter against Lakeview Academy (16-7, 6-2 Region 8-A), Shad Dabney made five straight from the foul line and Orlando Stevens made all four attempts on free throws as the Eagles (15-4, 6-1) locked up a 75-66 road win in Gainesville.
“This means a lot to us here at Riverside,” said the sophomore Dabney, who finish with a game-high 28 points. “Everyone has counted us out, but we feel like if we can beat (Lakeview), we can beat anyone.”
The Eagles continued to buffer their lead with four minutes left to play. Left-handed senior Khalid Duke, who is a Kansas State football signee, put in a basket off a Dabney rebound, giving Riverside Military its biggest lead of the evening, 66-55, with only 2:40 remaining in the game.
Senior Isaac Teasley had 20 points for the Eagles, while Duke used his physical presence inside to score 16 points.
Now, Riverside Military can lock up the No. 1 spot to the region tournament with region wins against George Walton Academy today, then Commerce on Friday to round out the regular season.
“We’ve been building for this here at Riverside Military,” fifth-year Eagles coach Marvin Latham said. “When I got here, the program wasn’t the best, but these kids have continued to work so hard and done everything we’ve asked them to do.”
Lakeview Academy was without head coach Todd Cottrell, who was ejected from Tuesday’s road loss at Towns County, and had to serve a one-game suspension, per GHSA rules.
Riverside Military’s Michael Poteat was also a big factor down the stretch, after hitting his knee hard on the floor near the end of the third quarter. He came back in the game shortly after his fall and chipped in an off-balanced layup to put the Eagles ahead 60-53 with 4:50 left to play.
On the next trip down the floor, Poteat flipped the ball to an open Teasley in the lane for a basket.
Despite trailing by double digits late, Adam Cottrell kept the Lions in the game with a 3-pointer with 1:45 left to play and a layup the next trip down the floor to keep it a six-point Eagles lead.
After Lakeview Academy’s Sam Stewart put in a basket after a rebound with :45 seconds left to play, it trailed 68-64.
However, the Eagles were able to lock up the win with back-to-back successful trips to the free throw line by Stevens and Dabney, respectively.
Leading Lakeview Academy in scoring was Blake McIntyre, who had three first-half 3-pointers, and finished with 20 points. The last of his long makes in the opening half cut into an Eagles four-point lead with two minutes left before halftime.
Cottrell scored five straight points for the Lions early in the third quarter, putting them on top 41-38 and energized the home crowd.
However, the Eagles snapped back quickly with baskets by Duke, Poteat and Teasley on an 8-0 run to go ahead, 46-41.
Dabney’s floater at the buzzer to end the first quarter put Riverside Military ahead 17-11. However, Lakeview Academy battled back with second-chance baskets from Arturo Varela (14 points) and Cottrell (16 points).
Up next, Lakeview Academy hosts Athens Academy for a 7:30 p.m. tip-off on Tuesday.