This one came down to grit and grind, hard work and defense.
And with that effort in a 48-36 D2-3 District championship victory over Wilcox-Hildreth came the reward for the Riverside Chargers – a berth in the 2015 Nebraska Boys State Basketball Tournament in the school’s inaugural season.
It didn’t hurt Riverside that Wilcox-Hildreth (24-2) 6-foot-5 center Triston Farley missed the contest with illness.
But this was more about the Chargers heeding hard-earned lessons during a 19-7 season. In a game when the offense struggled, at the end of a season when all seven losses were decided in the final minute – often, the final possesion – of games, Riverside players kept their composure and found a way to win.
“We’ll take a win no matter how we can get it in the postseason,” Charger Coach Joe Imus stated. “It’s an incredible feat, making it to the state tournament in the first year of Riverside.
“There are schools all over the state who do not make it down to Lincoln for decades and, by us doing it in our first year because the players built instant chemistry with each other, just makes it that much more special.”
“This was the worst offensive game we’ve had as a team all season,” Imus said. “Usually we have one or two guys take over and have a great scoring game. I don’t know why, but we could not make a contested layup – we missed 15 of them!”
Still, the Chargers found a way by excelling in other areas. Riverside sank 13-of-15 free throws (Wilcox-Hildreth was just 5-of-15), outrebounded the Falcons 29-25, and had a plus-10 advantage in turnovers.
Grit and grind. And composure.
“We’ve learned all season how to play with the ball in our hands,” Imus noted. “All seven losses we had, we were ahead or within one possesion in the last minute.
“Two of our starters were on a team that won four games last year – the dynamic for us is very different. Our motto this year was ‘Building Tradition’ – and I think we have a good start.”
Imus says the work is not done in 2015, however. He and his squad now have their eyes on bigger prizes.
“Although the players and the Riverside community are excited about making a trip to Lincoln, the players know there is still more to accomplish this season,” he concluded.
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