By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Riverside boys run to the playoffs
Eagles learn to minimize turnovers en route to postseason berth
The Riverside Military Academy starting five, from left, Tarvin Duke, Dylen Setzekorn, Alex O’Donnell, Richard Tribble and Kane Duncan will lead the team against Spencer in the opening game of the AA state tournament tonight. - photo by Tom Reed

First round playoff previews

Today’s games

Basketball playoffs

Class AAA

Central-Carrollton at North Hall, 7 p.m.

Johnson at Carrollton, 7 p.m.

Cartersville at West Hall, 7 p.m.

East Hall at Ringgold, 7:30 p.m.

Class AA

Dawson County at Callaway, 6 p.m.

Spencer at Riverside Military, 6:30 p.m.

Manchester at Jefferson, 7 p.m.

Class A

Our Lady of Mercy at Commerce, 7 p.m.

Lakeview boys at Pace Academy, 8:30 p.m.

Tickets are $7 each per GHSA rules.

All year long, running has been the answer to any problem that pops up on the court for Riverside Military basketball coach Rico Zackery.

If a player turns it over in a game, then he’ll be running line drills the next day. Force a turnover during practice and the other squad will be toeing the line to run back and forth the length of the gym floor at Curtis Hall.

“Players are going to compete when you make them do that,” Zackery said. “They’ll do anything not to have to run.”

Riverside’s first-year coach didn’t design his coaching strategy based in physical conditioning just to be an authoritarian; he wanted to tap into the potential that he knew was possible with a program that was deep on returning experience from last year’s Region 8-AA champions.

His methods seem to have worked.

Riverside (17-4) came within one point of repeating as Region 8-AA champions this season, and will open the Class AA state playoffs against Spencer (17-10) at 6:30 tonight in Gainesville. With a home game, the Eagles also get the added bonus of playing in front of the school’s cadets and fan base that normally wouldn’t be on hand for a distant road trip.

“This is big to open the playoffs at home and have the fans and cadets behind them,” Zackery said.

With Zackery’s new strategy, he’s turned practice into a friendly competition where coaches even have to run as the result of a turnover or getting scored on. Zackery said his style for focusing on the defensive side of the ball comes from his football background as an assistant coach for the Eagles, as well as a starting defensive back at Georgia Southern University from 2003-2006.

Riverside’s coach established early that his team would have plenty of shooters this season with seniors Richard Tribble, Dylen
Setzekorn and Brandon McKinney in the lineup. However, it would be the defensive side of things that would make all the difference between winning and losing.

He says improving offensively is never the centerpiece of practice at Riverside.

It turns out, these players have embraced the new philosophy that puts a premium on taking care of the basketball — even if it means they’ll all be running until exhaustion sets in before the practice session is complete.

“Practice is all one big running drill,” Setzekorn said. “But it’s really helped our team out because everyone is in better shape.”
“You can never be in too good of shape to play basketball,” Zackery added. “But the players understand that it’s not punishment, it’s to become a better team.”

The idea of running off turnovers didn’t start in practice. It all originated from early season woes, when Zackery was beside himself with the team’s troubles taking care of the ball. In one game this season, they turned the ball over 23 times and before the next day’s practice was finished, they had completed more that 23 trips sprinting up and down the court during practice.

“I didn’t think we’d have to run them all,” Tribble said. “But I think that all the running has really helped us cut down on the turnovers.

“And it’s really kept us in shape.”

Tribble might be the player that the new tactic has benefited the most, as he went from averaging 15 turnovers per game last season, to five this year. In fact, Tribble grew accustomed to glancing over at Zackery on the sideline after a turnover, knowing that a running drill was the consequence for the mistake. “I knew he was going to be looking at me,” Tribble said.

As a team, the Eagles have improved from approximately 16 turnovers per game this year to committing less that 10 per outing heading into the playoffs.

Zackery also found early that his team was going to be receptive to the team concept this season. On the first day of practice, the Eagles’ new head coach went into the locker room and wrote out a long quote from Michael Jordan about playing as a team on the whiteboard. Zackery knows that the message resonated with the team since it has remained in tact — except for a few missing letters — all season without getting erased.

“He put that quote up as motivation to play as a team, because individual stats don’t matter,” Tribble said.

“You can have a lot of good individual players, but you have to come together if you want to win,” Setzekorn added.
Regional events