SMYRNA -- Riverdale's girls remained undefeated on the season, defeating the last team the Lady Warriors lost to, Stewarts Creek, 57-50 in District 7 play on Friday night
It was an early season district meeting for two of the state's top ranked teams, and each team was certainly tested in the exciting battle.
"They (Stewarts Creek) are the best team we've played," said Riverdale star senior and the game's leading scorer (21 points) Anastasia Hayes. "We didn't play our best game though. We got in foul trouble and our 3s weren't falling. We just didn't play like Riverdale usually does."
"Stewarts Creek does a good job," Riverdale coach Randy Coffman said. "They get after you defensively, they play tough and physical. They took the game to us in the second half, especially the third quarter. Our kids hung in there and fought hard, and for that I'm proud."
Stewarts Creek coach Lindy King said her team can still improve.
"I think the hardest thing about coaching is making the girls understand how good they can be if they work hard," King said. "We stress the little things and how easy it could be if you do the little things. We just have to keep going back to the drawing board and keep working and stay grounded. We will see them again."
The game began as a back-and-forth affair, with both teams running a full-court press that yielded high turnovers for both teams and early foul trouble for Riverdale, despite of which after an 18-2 run spanning from the end of the first quarter until midway through the second, saw the Lady Warriors with a 25-10 lead.
"Foul trouble tends to dictate how far you can extend," said Coffman, "and that caused us to get out of some things we like to do, but the kids rose to the challenge."
The biggest problem the first half foul trouble brought Riverdale was leaving star Brinae Alexander on the bench due to her early fouls.
"Brinae is one of our top scorers," said Hayes. "We knew with her in foul trouble we'd have to step it up on defense and get our offense going because most of our shots were coming of turnovers."
The Lady Red Hawks continued to fight behind the play of Brianah and Brandi Ferby and Kyra Wilder, who kept their team alive and didn't let Riverdale run away with it. The Lady Hawks closed the gap by a basket going into halftime, with the score 31-18 in favor of the Lady Warriors.
The second half was a different story, as Stewarts Creek opened with a 11-4 run that brought them within six, 35-29, and would eventually pull within four with 45 seconds left in the third quarter at 40-36 with a 3-pointer by Brianah Ferby and a turnover and lay in by Lauren Flowers.
Alexander, back in the game for the second half, had the only answer for the Lady Red Hawks in the third, netting nine of her teams 11 points in the quarter.
The fourth quarter provided a thrilling end, with each team essentially matching blow for blow, with Hayes and Alexis Whittington leading the way for the Lady Warriors, fending off the Ferby sisters and Jamya Rogers and holding on to the lead until the end.
Stewarts Creek is hosting a Christmas tournament over the break and Riverdale is traveling to Arizona to a tournament that will include some other nationally ranked teams.
"I'm not even sure where we are ranked nationally," said Hayes. "We just need to stay humble and stay focused. We can go win nationally next week, but we need to concentrate on our one goal, which is state."
Stewarts Creek 49
In boys action it was also a close and exciting game, and at the end maybe even a little closer than the score would indicate, with the Red Hawks spending the final moments at the foul line as the Warriors tried desperately to claw at the Stewarts Creek lead.
"The kids played real hard tonight," said Stewarts Creek coach Kris Hooper. "They stuck with the plan, even when Riverdale did some things they like to do. They stuck with what we asked them to do. They were strong with the ball, patient with their offense, and tried to make every shot a contested shot. I thought we really did a good job executing that game plan."
The Red Hawks got on top in the first quarter and maintained the lead throughout most of the game. The halftime score was 28-22 in favor of Stewarts Creek. Riverdale outscored the Red Hawks in the third to bring them within one, 36-35, going into the fourth.
The Warriors actually took the lead for a brief time in the fourth when a 3-pointer by Chance Crusoe tied the game at 38 and then a bucket by Jonathan Matthews gave them the 40-38 advantage.
However the Red Hawks finished the game on a 12-3 run to seal the deal.
"First I had to keep my composure," said Hooper. "I felt like we had played really well and controlled the game and I felt like we should be up by more than what we were. Then I look up and we're down, and what I had to do was tell the guys take it possession by possession, do what you're doing, tighten up a little defensively, get the loose balls and box outs, and then just finish the plays you've got. We were able to weather their push and had enough energy to finish strong."
The Red Hawks were led by Brayden Jackson and Tyler Conley with 13 and 12 points, respectively. Matthews led Riverdale with 11 points.