The outcome of Tuesday’s game wasn’t what Riverside Military basketball coach Lazarus Chennault wanted, but he still feels good about the direction his team is heading this season.
Trailing by double digits in the third quarter, the Eagles (6-7, 0-4 Region 8-AA) fought back to force overtime against region leader Jefferson, before the Dragons pulled away in the extra period for the 71-61 victory.
“I’m not disappointed because our guys fought hard and they played as a team,” Chennault said. “We’ve got potential. We’ve just to keep working.”
While there was feeling of optimism on one side, Jefferson was feeling like it was lucky to escape with a win after what coach Bolling DuBose called a disappointing effort by his players.
“I was disappointed,” DuBose said. “You have to give Riverside credit. I thought their kids played hard. I told our kids several times in the game, ‘They just want to win more than we do.’”
The win for Jefferson came less than five days after splitting a pair of back-to-back games with Washington-Wilkes and Apalachee. Last Friday, the Dragons routed the Purple Hurricanes 86-40 before narrowly falling to the Wildcats, 81-76.
“I thought we had been playing pretty well,” DuBose said. “But for some reason we just didn’t give a very good effort (Tuesday night).”
After Jefferson (14-5, 6-0) grabbed a 44-32 lead in the closing minutes of the third quarter, the Eagles mounted their comeback. Led by six fourth-quarter points by J.J. McCalston, Riverside Military cut the Dragons’ lead to just two, 52-50, in a matter of minutes.
Then after Jefferson re-extended its lead to 59-54 with three minutes to play, the Eagles used stifling defense to hold Jefferson scoreless and close out the quarter on a 5-0 run, capped by a-tying 3-pointer from Raleigh Beougher with 1:27 left to knot the game at 59-59.
“(Fighting back) is a great sign moving forward,” Chennault said. “That lets us know we are trying to gel. If my guys would have let go in the second quarter, I would’ve been disappointed. But I’m not. We have more games and I’m happy with what I’m seeing.”
In the overtime period, Jefferson looked like the more experienced team, outscoring the Eagles 12-2, led by Tay Taylor’s five points in the OT period.
Taylor led all scorers with a game-high 34 points, also leading Jefferson with nine rebounds. Satchel Turpin finished with 14 points for the Dragons, while Conner McCollough finished with 12 points.
The Dragons finished the night 15 of 29 from the free throw line.
“We got the ball inside to Satchel, which was good, but he was settling for 10-foot jump shots instead of taking it to the basket,” DuBose said. “And we got to the free throw line several times and just didn’t hit our free throws.”
Jake Weiner connected on six 3-pointer attempts and finished with a team-best 18 points for Riverside Military, while Beougher finished with 15 points and Avery Cagle notched 14 points.
“The main focus is trying to gel as a team on offense, know our roles,” he said. “We have to keep other teams off the glass and control the basketball.”
Riverside Military opened the game with back-to-back 3’s from Weiner, before Jefferson closed out the quarter on a 16-1 run to take control of the tempo.
Jefferson continued to separate itself from Riverside Military in the second quarter, using eight second-quarter points from Taylor to build a 30-20 halftime lead.
Weiner connected on three 3-pointers within the first three minutes of the second half to bring Riverside Military within three, 32-29. But, the Dragons scored on four of their next five possessions to grab a 44-33 lead.
Riverside Military hosts Oglethorpe County on Friday night in Region 8-AA action, while Jefferson visits Social Circle.