Wednesday, January 28, 2009

SPORTS>>Lady Raiders rally from 15-0 deficit in victory

Leader sports editor

When the Riverview Lady Raiders fell behind Hardi ng Academy 15-0 on Friday night, the last thing anyone in the raucous crowd could have imagined was a dramatic, heroic ending.

But that’s exactly what Ashante Baker provided when she hit the game-winning basket along the right side of the lane with five seconds left as Riverview rallied for a stunning 48-47 win over the first-place Lady Wildcats at the Riverview Activity Center.

“We’re warriors and we just fight the whole time,” Riverview head coach Russell Stumpenhaus said. “That’s all we do. That’s the only way I can explain it. We’ve been down before. We were down 21 to England and almost came back.”

It was a jolt for the Lady Wildcats (10-6 overall), who lost their fourth game of the season by two points or less, but still remain tied for first place with Rose Bud at 7-2 in the 2-3A Conference. Riverview improved to 5-3.

“The locker room felt like grenade went off,” Harding Academy coach Rusty Garner said. “It was just like the Rose Bud game (when the Lady Wildcats lost a three-point lead in the final minute and lost on a last-second shot). Both of those games, we felt like we had it to win. But she hit a tough shot. Give her credit.

“The feeling of having it and then losing it is harder than not having it at all.”

Harding Academy appeared to have it and then some after playing what Garner called the best stretch of the season in the first period. Crisp ball movement led to open shots and a 15-0 lead.

“After we got up 9-0, we kind of thought it might start rolling from there,” Garner said. “But Ariel (English) picked up her second foul and we missed a few shots and Riverview started chipping away. They didn’t panic.”

While Baker was the hero late, she was the rudder early, scoring three straight times over a minute-and-a-half span in the second quarter to keep Riverview within shouting distance. Three-pointers by Molly Sims and Kandice Leggett suddenly had the Lady Raiders with three points, though point guard Queen Banks drew her third and fourth fouls in a 10-second span before intermission.

The Lady Raiders got a Leggett lay-up and the first of three three-pointers by Casie Clause gave Riverview a 24-23 lead just 48 seconds into the second half.

Harding Academy’s Anna Bangs took it on herself in the second half, scoring 14 of the Lady Wildcats’ 24 points. Her end-to-end basket and baseline bucket and free throw put Harding Academy back on top, 33-30, at the 3:21 mark of the third period.

But Riverview responded with eight straight points on a nifty spin move by Emily Harris, and three-pointers by Kelly Blackwood and Clause as Riverview took a 38-33 lead into the final period.

Harding Academy finally reclaimed the lead on Bangs’ drive through the paint with a minute remaining. After Baker missed on the other end, Ciarra Farmer went to the line for Harding Academy with 33 seconds and a chance to extend the 47-46 lead. She missed both, though, setting up Baker’s drive down the right side of the lane and winning scoop.

“We thought they’d go strong with the zone,” Stumpenhaus said. “I told them, if we didn’t have a look on the outside, either Queen or Ashante should take it inside.”
Garner said one of his players got caught on a switch and couldn’t get over to cut Baker off.

“I could kind of see it on our kids,” Garner said. “That was the third time they came down and we had a one-point lead. We missed a couple of free throws and made a questionable decision. You only get so many chances.”

The Lady Wildcats made 13 of 25 free throws, only 8 of 17 after intermission.

After Baker’s basket, Harding Academy called a time out and Bangs tried to race to the other end for a game-winner. But her shot in the lane came after the buzzer.

“Once we got out of our rhythm from the first quarter, we couldn’t get back in it,” Garner said. “Sometimes I forget that I’ve got five starters that haven’t done this before. My expectation level has gotten so high.”

Bangs led the way with 20 points and 12 rebounds, with McKenzie Miller adding 11 and English 10. Taylor Mote added six points and three assists, while Farmer pulled down nine rebounds.

For Riverview, Clause scored 11 points and Leggett added 10 points, five rebounds and three assists. Baker had eight and Harris seven. Riverview (11-8 overall) made 7 of 15 three-pointers.

“It’s tough because we’re so short,” Stumpenhaus said. “But we’re figuring out how to play together. This team has good chemistry.”