GAINESVILLE — Size plays a factor when it comes to winning and losing in high school basketball.
Never was that more evident in Riverside Military’s 71-65 win over Lakeview Academy on Thursday night at Lakeview.
Riverside, in its first year in the Georgia High School Association, boasts a starting lineup that is taller on average, than Lakeview’s entire roster and that proved to be the difference in the game.
The Eagles (1-1) were led by 6-foot-6 forward Brandon McKinney, who had 19 points and 10 rebounds and 6-7 center John Ogguniya who had a double-double of his own with 13 points and 10 rebounds.
Ogguniya, only in his second year of playing organized basketball, also helped the winning effort by amassing seven blocked shots on the night.
“We don’t practice (blocking shots),” Riverside coach Matt Bohan said. “I hate blocking shots because I don’t think it’s good defense. But he’s one kid we say, ‘Go block all of ‘em if you can.’”
The duo’s play inside limited Lakeview’s (0-1) ability to get to the basket and, with the Lions having an off shooting night, that didn’t bode well for the defending Region 8-A champions.
“We couldn’t seem to draw any fouls,” Lakeview coach Seth Vining said, “and that’s something we need to work on.
“We’re small, and when we play teams that are big like that, particularly when we don’t shoot the ball well, we have to find a way to score.”
The Lions were led by shooting guard Tyler Ward and point guard Haughton Carswell who each hit for 13 points.
Despite the clear difference in size, Lakeview played Riverside to a two-point game going into the half thanks in large part to an aggressive press that caused three straight Eagles’ turnovers to end the half.
With four mintues to go in the third quarter, Riverside took its biggest lead of the game at 49-40.
Lakeview came roaring back, however, and in doing so found its ability to score in bunches.
Sparked by a tenacious defense that accounted for two steals and two charges taken to end the third quarter, Lakeview went on an 11-5 run to pull within three going into the fourth.
Carswell led the charge offensively hitting for six while junior shooting guard Daniel Olvera did his part with a layup and 3-point basket.
Riverside’s Josh Davis, a reserve guard, ended the quarter with a 3-pointer of his own to end the Lions run, and give his team momentum heading into the final period.
“Our bench stepped up,” Bohan said. “We had some kids score six and five that I wasn’t even planning on playing tonight.”
Davis finished with 10 points on the night.
A 7-0 Riverside run to start the fourth quarter, sparked by reserve guard John O’Bryan’s five points, looked to put the cap on a win.
The Lions, however, wouldn’t have it and gave once last valiant effort before the buzzer sounded.
Helped by the Eagles inability to make free throws down the stretch, (Riverside was 5-for-10 from the line in the fourth quarter) and intense defense that resulted in five points, the Lions were able to get within one point with under a minute remaining.
But that was as close as the Lions would come to pulling out the win.
“They’ve got a lot of fight and a lot of heart and that’s what we expect them to do,” Vining said. “It was a great effort, wasn’t a pretty effort, but it was a great effort.”
“I think having the success we did in GISA (the Eagles have been to the Georgia Independent Schools Association final four the last two years) helped our kids learn how to win,” Bohan said. “Lakeview’s a great team but our kids played well, I’m excited for them.”
Lakeview girls 53, Banks County 36
Louisa Jacobs led the way for the Lady Lions with 13 points, three rebounds and two assists while Megan Rochester had eight points, and four rebounds Thursday night at Lakeview.
Maddie Haymore and Brittany Moore contributed seven points a piece for the Lady Lions (1-0).
Banks County (0-1) was led by Lauren Kennedy’s 11-point effort and Erika Evans seven points.