Bishop McGuiness buzzer beater ends Riverside’s historic season

Published 3:40 pm Saturday, March 15, 2014




It’s been a season of ups for the Riverside girls basketball, but on Saturday, the Knights storybook run came to an end with a 61-58 loss to the defending state champion, Bishop McGuiness. And what an ending it was.

Relying on the press, the Knights utilized their superior athleticism to reach their first title game in school history. For the Villains, this was their ninth consecutive appearance in the championship game. David entered the historic Dean Smith Center looking to dethrone Goliath.

Bishop McGuiness exploited the Knights’ press early by methodic ball movement. Head coach Kirby Maness found his team biting on the perimeter, leaving Villains’ senior Julia Brown an open interior to work with.

Despite Riverside’s inability to force their usual amount of turnovers, Maness’ girls hung around and kept the Villains’ lead to single digits. Challenging Bishop McGuiness in the paint allowed Riverside to collect fouls, enough to consistently get to the line. The team had 22 free throw in the first half alone.

The Villains took a seven-point lead into the locker room, one that would be challenged over the final 16 minutes.

“I told them in the beginning of the game we had to attack, attack, attack,” Maness said. “We went to the free throw line 32 times and made 20 of them. We put ourselves in a position to win the ballgame. At the end of the day, there was never a doubt about effort, about the heart of this team.”

Riverside displayed a newfound intensity out of the gate in the third quarter. The guard tandem of Jalyn Brown and Shakera Alexander applied seamless pressure defense, and the offense capitalized on the Villains’ apparent discomfort.

Jones added to her total in the third, hitting three shots from range and single-handedly taking on the Bishop McGuiness interior defense. Maness’ star freshman finished with a game-high 31 points, while counterpart D’asya Wilson contributed with 15 of her own.

After slowly chipping away at the lead, the Knights crested the Villains with a minute left in the fourth quarter, 58-56, and Riverside had its first lead of the game.

A defensive standoff persisted for the next 55 seconds, until Jones found her way to the line for two shots with 5.3 seconds on the clock. The Knights’ leading scorer, who has enjoyed one of the most dominant freshman campaigns in Riverside history, could not convert either shot at the line.

Tied at 58, Bishop McGuiness’ Alex Putman, who was 0-5 from the field, got the ball in transition, firing off a shot a few feet above the half court line as the buzzer sounded.

It dropped.

The Knights’ historic run came to an end in dramatic fashion, as the Villains locked up their eighth-straight state championship.

“When you’re good, things like that happen. At the end of the day, we put ourselves in a position to win the game, and the ball just didn’t bounce our way. It’s the kindest rim I’ve ever seen on a half-court shot. Hats off to them, they’re a heck of a ball team.”

Riverside finishes the season with a 29-1, the best in school history, and the champions of the east. Jones received the East’s Most Outstanding Player Award, while Brown took it home for the West, finishing with 26 points and seven rebounds.

“We didn’t lose because we didn’t bust our tails, or because they blew us out…it was just a lucky shot,” said Brown. Sometimes it ends up that way.”