By Lee Wright
Special to the News-Daily
With the "stretch run" of the 2010-11 season on the horizon, every victory in Region 4-AAAA girls basketball crucial. That's especially true on the road, and it worked well for the Tri-Cities Lady Bulldogs on Friday night at Riverdale.
Paced by some stellar defense, the Lady Bulldogs picked up a crucial Region 4-AAAA road triumph with a 43-33 victory over rival Riverdale. Head coach Clifton Spears' Tri-Cities squad improves to 8-7 overall and 6-4 in 4-AAAA, while the Lady Raiders under head coach Tony Brinson fall to 5-9 overall and 2-6 in 4-AAAA.
"Road wins are always big and we played tremendous defense tonight," said Spears. "Right now, I am excited about where we are and where we can be. Destiny is in our hands if we choose to take it."
Tri-Cities overcame an early six-point Riverdale lead with its defense, cutting off the passing lanes and forcing Lady Raider turnovers in the process. Takesha Gordon gave the Lady Bulldogs the lead with a free throw, and then a lay-up by Dominique Weathesby converted a lay-up in transition to give Tri-Cities and 11-8 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Riverdale tied the game early in the second quarter on a 3-point basket by Jasmine Barnes. The Lady Raiders kept it close, trailing 17-15 with three minutes remaining, but Tri-Cities closed out the half on a flury as Leah Spears scored on a driving lay-up at the buzzer to give the Lady Bulldogs a 22-15 lead at halftime.
Tri-Cities' took control of the contest in the third quarter behind the stellar play of forward Brittanie Larkin. The 5-foot-10 senior scored eight points in the third quarter, all on transition lay-ups off Riverdale turnovers as the Lady Bulldogs increased their lead to 33-22 with 1:13 remaining.
"Because of her length, she creates a lot of problems up top defensively," Spears said of Larkin. "We picked up the defensive intensity in the third quarter, and she was the spear-head behind it. We need that from a senior."
Riverdale never got closer than seven points in the fourth quarter. The Lady Bulldogs, meanwhile, increased their lead to double-digits three times. Tishae North's transition lay-up with 1:07 remaining gave Tri-Cities a 43-32 lead.
Larkin scored 15 points to pace Tri-Cities, followed by Weathesby with 10 points. For Riverdale, freshman sensation forward Keymaira Haycock scored a game-high 16 points.
TRI-CITIES/RIVERDALE BOYS: At press time, Riverdale held a 52-35 lead at the end of the third quarter against visiting Tri-Cities. The Raiders used a 19-5 run in the second quarter to take control after Tri-Cities lead 14-4 in the first quarter. Head coach Derick Powell's Raiders entered the game 9-6 overall and 4-5 in Region 4-AAAA, while Tri-Cities and head coach Omari Forts came in 6-8 overall and 5-4 in 4-AAAA.