Riverside routs Rosewood, returns to state championship
Published 7:00 pm Saturday, March 7, 2015
FAYETTEVILLE — Nearly a year since Alex Putman’s half-court heave broke the hearts of fans in Williamston, the Riverside girls’ basketball team is returning to the NCHSAA 1-A state championship after a 67-47 win over Rosewood at Crown Arena in the eastern regional final.
“Obviously it’s great to be back in the state championship game. After last year this gives us a good chance to put on a good showing and hopefully we can practice our half court defense against half court shots, so we’ll try to work on that this week a little bit,” head coach Kirby Maness said jokingly.
The Eagles, who boasted a 23-4 record and Carolina Conference championship, were winners of 16-straight games before meeting the Knights’ pressure defense. The matchup featured two of the area’s premier girls’ high school basketball talents — Rosewood’s Lexi Mercer and Riverside’s Kayla Maddox, both potential Division I prospects at this point in their young careers.
Mercer, a junior, finished with 23 points and seven rebounds in a losing effort, while Jones, a 6-foot-1 sophomore, led all scorers with 26 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks. Maness says his standout power forward has risen to the occasion and returned this season with even more athletic ability.
“The maturity factor has grown,” he said. “Last year as a freshman, obviously she played phenomenal, but at the same time, she made some freshman mistakes. At times, shw forgot how talented she was and this year she’s done a better job of playing within herself, realizing she’s going to be one of the best players on the court every time she steps on the court.”
And in the backcourt, sixth-man turned go-to point guard Takwana Bland, a senior, ran the offense to near perfect and finished with 18 points, five assists and five steals.
Sophomore center Remi Simmions also finished with a double-double — 16 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks.
With the win, Riverside earns a matchup with No. 3-seeded Winston-Salem Prep in the NCHSAA 1-A state championship next Saturday at the Carmichael Arena in Chapel Hill. Tip-off is scheduled for noon.