Riverside rolls, remain undefeated

Published 12:24 am Thursday, January 9, 2014

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It’s been exactly 312 days since the 28-win Riverside women’s basketball team came just six points shy from advancing to the final four of the state tournament.

This season, the Lady Knights, led by second-year Head Coach Kirby Maness, have one date on their mind. “Our goal from the beginning of the season is to play in the game on March 15,” said Maness. “Our team, they’ve really started to develop the culture of winning. The girls get upset about losing, they hate losing more than they like winning. That’s when you actually start having a good team.”

So far, the Lady Knights are off to one of the best starts in school history, surpassing last year’s 12-win start by picking up win No. 13 against Ayden-Grifton on Wednesday, 69-17. While the Chargers had the height advantage over Riverside on paper, the experience and sheer speed of the Knights’ guards picked apart Ayden-Grifton’s young squad, made up of six freshman and just three seniors.

Playing a man defense with no full court press, Maness’ squad took full control of the game early, playing tight defense and forcing double-digit turnovers. Junior point guard and team captain Jalyn Brown commanded the floor and applied relentless defensive pressure throughout the night.

 “[Brown] is getting there. She started off slow in the year and was really timid,” said Maness. “It was one of those things she was being a little too unselfish. She does a good job when she gets in trying to get everyone to the correct spot, rotating and moving the ball from there.”

Off the bench, Brown’s counterpart, junior Takwana Bland, was able to call her own plays and systematically run the offense in the absence of the starting point guard. The pair proved unstoppable down the stretch and left the Chargers struggling to cross mid-court.

“We are a motion-based team. We’re going to try to move around as must as possible, rotate the ball and find an open shot,” said Maness. “We have three girls that are in double figures on the season and one girl that’s at 9.8, so we’re a very balanced offense that makes us hard to defend.”

Riverside took an imposing 37-8 lead into the half. Freshman Kayla Jones proved to be a presence in the paint with 13 first half points.

The second half told a very similar story with the young Chargers playing unmotivated basketball. The Lady Knights contested each inbound, even late into the fourth quarter, and continued to force turnovers.

The Lady Knights will look to improve to 14-0 when they face North Edgecombe at home tonight at 6 p.m.