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Riverdale girls get late wakeup call in victory

Photo by Jerry Jackson
Riverdale guard Angel Cooper gets a fastbreak layup for the Lady Raiders during the first half of their win over Locust Grove in the Region 4-AAAA tournament at Woodland High.

Photo by Jerry Jackson Riverdale guard Angel Cooper gets a fastbreak layup for the Lady Raiders during the first half of their win over Locust Grove in the Region 4-AAAA tournament at Woodland High.

STOCKBRIDGE – Call it a Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde. Call it a tale of two halves. Call it the difference between night and day.

Riverdale coach Jacquesa Smith doesn’t care how you describe it. She’s just glad her Lady Raiders came out victorious.

Riverdale freshman Angel Cooper and junior DeAnna Turner tied for a team-high 13 points, pacing the Lady Raiders as they came back from an 11-point deficit to notch a 49-41 win in the Region 4-AAAA quarterfinals game against Locust Grove Tuesday.

Smith said she isn’t sure why her team got off to a sluggish start. But she said a sense of urgency and a desire to extend their season provided the second half jump start.

“I told them this is it, if we lose this, we’re going to the house; we’re done,” Smith said. “We slowly woke up and began to work. We realized this is sweating you out of your close play. It’s tournament time.”

The Lady Raiders seemed to realize it after Sabiyah Broderick hit for two of her game-high 14 points on a jumper to help Locust Grove build a 29-18 lead with 6:02 left in the third quarter. That’s when Riverdale guard Erica Burnham drained a long jumper to spark a 14-4 Lady Raider run to end the 3rd quarter.

Two possessions later Cooper drained a 3-pointer which launched Riverdale into a full-court press that triggered eight straight Locust Grove turnovers. Cooper, Turner and Toni Thomas all scored layups in transition during Riverdale’s defensive blitz.

Turner’s layup with 13.3 seconds left in the third gave Riverdale a 34-31 lead — its first since it was 1-0 on the game’s first possession.

Riverdale’s lockdown treatment of the Wildcats’ offense caused a field goal drought and helped the Raiders extend its lead to eight points. By the time Locust Grove’s Mia Juarez scored on a layup to cut Riverdale’s lead to five, the Wildcats had gone over 10 minutes without a bucket.

That was as close as Locust Grove would come the rest of the way. Riverdale center Sequoia Nelson and Cooper both drained close-range jump shots to stretch the Raiders lead back to 10 points to put the game out of reach for good.

Afterward, Smith was high on her freshman point guard.

“Angel has definitely matured over the year,” Smith said. “She’s very coachable now and it shows. She hasn’t even begun to reach her potential yet.”

Despite having six seniors, Smith’s squad has had to ride the inconsistencies that come with having young players like Cooper and fellow freshman Briona Andrews in key positions.

But Smith believes that Tuesday’s comeback performance is a sign that the light is starting to come on.

“They get it now,” Smith said. “At some point the freshmen and sophomores need to turn it up a notch. And tonight they did. Locust Grove was trying to upset us tonight.”

Broderick scored five of Locust Grove’s 10 first quarter points as the Wildcats went up by six after the first period and stretched it to a 23-14 halftime lead. Things started to turn for Locust Grove, however, when sharp shooter Taylor Delasbour got into foul trouble early in the third.

Riverdale raised its record to 15-12 with the win as Locust Grove ends its season at 5-21.