Riverside takes sectional championship over Plymouth

Published 1:24 am Saturday, March 1, 2014




The Lady Knights have beaten every opponent this season by double digits. They have showcased a collection of defensive schemes to counter whatever is thrown at them. And now, the Riverside girls basketball team is unbeaten, Class 1A state tournament sectional champions and poised to make a run at a state championship.

On Friday, Riverside breezed by one of the most talented defensive teams in the area, the 17-5 Plymouth Vikings, 56-35.

“We’re going to keep this going for three more games. That’s the plan,” said head coach Kirby Maness.

Riverside’s guards came out of the gate with the intention of challenging Plymouth’s forwards in the paint. Undersized, senior caption Jalyn Brown and junior Takwana Bland drove the lane, hitting acrobatic layups, getting to the line and dishing to senior D’asya Wilson, who had 10 first-half points, when contested.

The balanced Riverside offense expanded its lead in the second quarter by drawing fouls and shooting above 80 percent from the charity strip. The Knights took a commanding 36-15 lead into the break.

Standout freshman Kayla Jones would take control on both ends of the floor in the second half.

“You look at a freshman to come in and play the way that she has all season, and it’s really remarkable,” Maness said. “At the end of the day, she’s a very humble kid. She stays after practice a lot to work on her shot. She’s always asking questions to try to see where she’s at and how she can get better. We’re blessed to have a gifted athlete, as well as someone who works as hard as she does.”

As Jones capitalized down low, Brown and the Riverside guards remained composed on defense, forcing double-digit turnovers in the second half. The lead widened, but the Knights did not lose intensity in their customary full court press.

“That’s one of the things that we’ve worked on all year and stressed,” Maness said. “We’re going to be known for our defensive hustle. We throw a lot of different looks at people.”

Exhaustion became apparent in the body language of the Vikings playmakers, as the Knights executed stalling tactics in the final quarter to seal the victory.

Jones finished with a game-high 17 points, while Bland ended with nine.

“There are some people who will look at the final score and think we didn’t score that many points, but at the end of the fourth quarter, our goal was to come out with a win,” Maness said. “We put ourselves in a position to run our delay and ice the game.”

Riverside will face Pamlico County in the fourth round of the Class 1A state tournament on Friday. The game will be played at the Crown Arena in Fayetteville.