Photo by Jerry Jackson
Riverdale point guard Erica Burnham (left) tries to drive by Lovejoy’s Diamond Butler during the first half of the teams’ non-region game on Friday.
RIVERDALE — On a night in which they honored their seniors, the Riverdale Lady Raiders got a nice reprieve from Region 4-AAAA scheduling as Class AAAAAA Lovejoy came to visit.
Riding De’Ana Turner’s 18 points, Riverdale wrestled away the lead early and kept the Lady Wildcats at arm’s length on their way to a 50-43 victory.
“We were quicker, and we pounded the ball inside,” Riverdale coach Jacquesa Smith said. “It was senior night so I kept inputting my seniors, so they can get some flow going because it [was] their night. However, we wanted to win a basketball game.”
Turner was one of six Riverdale (11-11) seniors that helped their team to a win, scoring eight of her team’s 18 first-quarter points as the Lady Raiders built an eight-point lead. “She’s on a roll right now,” Smith said. “That senior leadership is really anchoring us.”
The non-senior backcourt of Angel Cooper and Toni Thomas, chipped in with 15 and 11 points, respectively. Smith credits the duo for steering the team’s ship. After Lovejoy’s Diamond Butler jumpshot cut the Riverdale lead to 33-26 to start the fourth quarter, Cooper made two baskets to push the lead up to 37-26. The Lady Wildcats would only come within single digits again during the game’s final minute.
Lovejoy fell to 3-14 on the season as freshman LaQuay Marshall played her first varsity game and scored 14 points.
“Just watching her play in ninth-grade and JV games, I noticed how hard she played and we needed a spark,” Lovejoy coach Leon Dillard said. “She plays hard. She attacks. She’s not afraid of anything.”
Lovejoy can use her scoring punch as points have been hard to come by all season. During one stretch in the third quarter, the Lady Wildcats missed several point-blank shots around the basket as they squandered an opportunity to cut into Riverdale’s lead. “That’s been the story of our season,” Dillard said. “We’ve have had a tough time putting the ball in the basket. We only average about 29 points per game. We just miss a lot of bunnies.”
Riverdale, which has won its last two games to get to .500, will step back into region play Tuesday with a home game against Upson-Lee.
“We’re playing a lot better right now,” Smith said. “This is the time of the year that you want to play better.”