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High school basketball: Riverside Military Academy rallies to erase late deficit in win over Vidalia in Hall County Holiday Classic
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Riverside Military Academy's Arrinten Page shoots during the semifinals of the Hall County Holiday Classic against Vidalia on Friday, Dec. 20 at Johnson High School. - photo by Nathan Berg

It wasn’t always pretty, but the Riverside Military Academy basketball team had just enough to get it done Friday evening against Vidalia in the semifinals of the Hall County Holiday Classic at Johnson High. 

Trailing by a point with 15 seconds left in the game, Eagles freshman Arrinten Page connected on a turnaround lay-in from right in front of the basket to lift Riverside Military to a 60-59 win and send the team to Saturday’s final. 

The Eagles were down by as many as nine points in the fourth quarter before ending the game on an 11-1 run to complete the comeback victory.

“I knew they were going to be well-coached, and they were going to play hard,” Riverside Military coach Marvin Latham said of Vidalia. “When we were down, I just told our guys we’re still in it. Let’s play hard and see what happens.”

Areeb Ahmad led the way with 17 points — connecting on five 3s — but with six different players scoring at least seven points, the win was a complete team effort.

The Eagles started the game slow, failing to score a bucket until more than three minutes into the opening quarter, but heating up as the half wore on. Riverside Military had fallen into a six-point deficit by the start of the second frame, but a 3-pointer from Ahmad and a traditional 3-point play from Shad Dabney tied things up early in the period. 

A 7-0 run from Vidalia put the Indians back in front from there, but a couple of late buckets from Tyler Gilchrist and a pair of made Dabney free throws to finish off the half brought Riverside Military to within a point of the lead at the break. 

The teams battled back and forth throughout the third quarter as well, until a pair of Ahmad corner 3s late in the period — both assisted by Dabney — propelled the Eagles into their first lead of the night, a five-point advantage going into the final frame. 

But Riverside Military allowed Vidalia to score the first 14 points of the fourth quarter, and it appeared for a moment the team was going to squander a winning opportunity. A well-timed timeout from Latham helped the Eagles to refocus for the final push. 

“Just do what you do,” Latham remembered telling the team. “Let’s stay in it. Keep playing our game.”

Riverside Military would allow just one more point from that moment on, and Page finally found his footing. He scored a pair of quick baskets to get the deficit to within three points. Then, Bryce Klacynski put in an easy layup to make it a one-point game with less than 30 seconds left to play. 

Vidalia had a chance to dribble the game out, but Indians guard Marc Wardlaw got caught in a trap off the inbound and traveled to turn the ball over, giving Page the opportunity to hit his game-winning shot.

“It’s really good for us,” Latham said of the win. “Vidalia is a really good team. To come in and beat them on a neutral court, it’s a credit to our guys. They just played hard.”

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