Since the season began, first-year Riverside Military basketball coach Rico Zackery has preached one thing to his team: finish
“In our 13 previous games we’ve lost eight fourth quarters,” Zackery said. “I’ve told the team and will continue to tell them to finish.
“I know that we’ll be a tough team to beat if we can just do that.”
Tuesday night while playing host to the team they were tied with for the subregion lead, the Eagles heeded their coach’s words, outscoring Rabun County 38-21 in the second half en route to a 64-42 win.
With the win, Riverside (11-3, 7-1 Region 8A-AA) takes sole possession of first place in the subregion standings.
“This game is a good win but doesn’t mean a lot actually,” Zackery said. “Being defending region champions we’ve been playing from the top all year; everyone was gunning for us and we were getting everyone’s best effort.”
And that certainly was the case against the Wildcats (14-5, 6-2).
The first quarter was neck and neck until Riverside ended it on a 5-0 run thanks to a layup by Kane Duncan and Richard
Tribble’s second 3-pointer of the night.
The Eagles kept it going early in the second quarter, taking their biggest lead of the game at 19-12 with four minutes to go in the half on a short jumper by John Collins.
Rabun responded on its ensuing possession, however, when Daniel Campbell hit a timely 3-pointer pulling the Wildcats within four points, the margin the score remained at halftime.
It was in the halftime locker room that Zackery preached his mantra, and it was immediately after the third quarter began that it was clear his team got it this time.
It began with just under three minutes to go in the third quarter when Tribble, who finished with game-high 23 points and five rebounds for the night, hit for five straight points to give his team an eight-point lead.
“Richard’s a hard worker,” Zackery said. “He didn’t have his best game, but he’s going to work and work and work to do the best he can.”
When the Eagles’ third quarter run was over they had outscored the Wildcats 14-0 and taken a 17-point lead.
The run didn’t stop at the third quarter’s end, however, as Riverside began the final period on a 6-2 run capped by a jumper by Alex O’Connell from just inside the 3-point line to take a 21-point lead.
The defining moment of Riverside’s dominating second half came with two minutes remaining in the game when Tribble stole the ball from Rabun’s point guard, dribbled the length of the court and scored on a one-handed dunk.
Seven players scored for Riverside on the night with Tribble, Tarvin Dukes (15 points and 12 rebounds) and Dylen Setzekorn (nine points and 13 rebounds) leading the way.
“We put a full game together tonight for the first time all season,” Zackery said. “Our whole team just played great.”
Rabun was led by Tanner Plemmons with 16 points and five rebounds and Corey Page with nine points and three rebounds.
As a team, Riverside outrebounded the Wildcats 41-21 for the night.
Both teams return to action Friday with Riverside traveling to Dawson County for a 7:30 p.m. start and Rabun playing host to Union County at 8:30 p.m.