In a contest that resembled a football game in terms of physicality, the Bobcats were guilty of a few too many late fumbles and interceptions.
Capitalizing on Aberdeen turnovers down the stretch, River Ridge withstood a Bobcat comeback for a 52-49 victory in an Evergreen 2A Conference boys basketball game Friday night at Sam Benn Gym.
Sophomore guard Kobe Key had six of his team’s final eight, scoring 16 to lead River Ridge (3-2 in league play).
Aberdeen guard Addam Follett, doing most of his business on drives and runners, paced all scorers with 19 points.
Although making almost nothing outside of five feet, River Ridge converted enough offensive rebounds and steals to enjoy the upper hand for most of the second half in this bruising defensive battle.
The Bobcats were guilty of 22 turnovers, including four in the final four minutes. Comparative rebounding figures weren’t available, but the bigger Hawks enjoyed a significant advantage in that department as well.
The Bobcats, meanwhile, canned only 8 of 18 foul shots. The Hawks weren’t much better from the stripe, hitting 9 of 20.
“Turnovers, free-throw shooting and rebounding. If we do two of those three things well, we probably win the game,” AHS coach Leonard Barnes said.
Barnes was, however, justifiably pleased with his team’s fortitude in the fourth quarter.
Down by as many as seven points in the early going, the Hawks took control of the glass to own a 44-35 lead early in the final period.
The Bobcats (0-4, 3-6) responded by reeling off the next nine points, capping the surge when Austin Floch went to the deck to snare a loose ball and pass ahead to Veek Cheema for a lay-in with 4:40 remaining.
Aberdeen had an opportunity to take the lead on its next possession. But a telegraphed cross-court pass was intercepted, resulting in a pair of Key free throws at the 4:16 mark.
Neither team scored again until Key found an opening in the Aberdeen defense and drove for a conventional three-point play with 2:21 left. Then LaBrandon Price converted another Bobcat turnover for a 51-44 lead with 2:04 on the clock.
At that, the Bobcats nearly pulled off what would have been a comeback for the ages by having a shot at erasing a five-point deficit in the final 15 seconds.
Follett put down a runner at 0:15 and drew a foul. He missed the ensuing free throw, however, and Key made it a two-possession game by sinking the front end of a one-and-one with 10 seconds left.
That should have been it, particularly after the Hawks swatted a Bobcat shot out of bounds with 1.5 seconds remaining. But River Ridge’s Austin Parker was then whistled for a technical foul — apparently for making a derisive gesture.
That gave the Bobcats two shots and the ball out of bounds.
Cole Edwards made one of the two technical foul shots. After three timeouts, two by River Ridge, the Cats inbounded to Edwards, but his half-court attempt for a tying 3-pointer was off the mark.
“I thought the kids did a tremendous job of coming back, but we didn’t finish,” Barnes said.
The Bobcat coach bemoaned his team’s inability to make close-in shots, but the tall, active River Ridge front-liners had something to do with that. The Hawks must have blocked close to 10 shots.
Deon Schlesser had seven rebounds and Lorenzo Ontiveros five boards for Aberdeen. Floch’s hustle also drew Barnes’ praise.
Key was the only River Ridge double-figure scorer, but all 11 Hawks who saw action scored.
The Bobcats hit the road to Centralia on Tuesday.
River Ridge10161313—52 Aberdeen1312816—49
River Ridge (52) — Leiba 1, Key 16, Kananin 4, Williams 2, Clark 4, Parker 5, Price 6, Murphy 4, Howard 2, Scott 4, Vela 4. FG — 21-54 (.389). FT — 9-20.
Aberdeen (49) — Campbell 4, Edwards 4, Follett 19, Schlesser 5, Ontiveros 6, Floch 5, Cheema 2, Black 4, Taylor, Craig. FG — 19-48 (.396). FT — 8-18.
JV — Aberdeen 51, River Ridge 39. Conner Weber 13 points, Chandler Craig 11 for Aberdeen.