A better defensive effort has led to overall improvement by the Riverside High boys as the 2021-22 basketball campaign has progressed.
"The biggest improvement we have made since the start of the season is in our man defense," said head coach Jonathan Woods. "Early on, we struggled to connect at times when trying to move as a single unit. After the George Washington game (a 65-44 loss on Jan. 21) it appears something has clicked with our players and hopefully that will continue the rest of the season."
"All of our close games have really come down to the same factor, whether or not we can make shots," he continued. "Several games could have turned out differently had we made shots early and not dug ourselves a hole. Against several tough opponents (Huntington and South Charleston) we started out down big before making late runs that gave us a shot against them.
"On the other side of the column, all three of our wins (the Warriors were 3-11 heading into a game at Wayne Monday) came with good or great first quarters that kept heavy pressure on our opponents. When we keep it close in the first quarter, we make opponents think a little more about each shot, so it's harder to run away from us. But when we go down early the pressure is off of them and that lead grows. Each time, though, our players find a groove and come roaring right back at them.
"If we find a way to flip that switch in the first, we're going to be a very dangerous team."
A concentrated team approach has been critical for Riverside, according to Woods. "With no doubt it's been a complete team effort for us. Scoring-wise, we are carried heavily by 6-foot-5 senior Peyton Foreman and 6-7 junior Braydin Ward. Their ability to put the ball in the basket is huge for us, just like their size on the court.
"But they wouldn't get a lot of the looks they are if it weren't for guys like Tyler Perdue and Samson Mitchell, who selflessly look to get them easy looks. Players like Donald Naylor and Michael Terrell Jr. do a great job of pushing the pace of the game for us when called upon. Coming off the bench are three guys who don't mind bringing an extra level of physicality to our defense in Micah Carelli, Jamil Crockett and Tariq Bean. These guys come in, play very physically, and bring a lot of intensity. Tariq's 6-4 presence has been big for Peyton and Braydin to be able to get a breather without losing much in terms of scoring ability and rebounding.
"And, I can't speak enough about Tyler, Samson and Micah, who consistently have guarded some of the best scorers the MSAC has to offer and made life very difficult for them."
Ward is averaging about 17 points, 15 rebounds and four blocked shots per game, while Foreman is averaging 15 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks an outing. Perdue leads the squad in assists with 5.0 a game while also contributing about five rebounds each night.
"Regardless of our record, this team makes every opponent work, and earn everything they get when they step on the court with us," Woods said. "This team has faced 7-8 top ten teams this year and every one of those games has been incredibly exciting.
"Don't let their record deceive you; this is a team that can play with anyone."
The Warrior boys posted a 65-61 win over Spring Valley on Jan. 25, followed by an 86-60 loss to Capital, a 43-31 win over Point Pleasant and a 59-50 setback to Huntington.
On Monday of this week, Riverside went on the road and defeated Wayne 97-72 to boost its record to 4-11.
Foreman collected 27 points, 12 rebounds, three assists and two blocked shots to power the attack. Perdue supplied 17 points, five rebounds and five assists, Terrell had 16 points and four assists, and Ward logged 13 points, 14 rebounds, four assists and four blocked shots.
Other contributors included Mitchell with eight points and two assists, Bean with five points and 11 boards, Crockett with five points, and Caden Ray and Evan Garrettson with three points apiece.
Riverside will visit Oak Hill on Wednesday, Feb. 9 for another makeup contest. The Warriors will play Parkersburg at 7 p.m. in Quincy on Thursday, Feb. 10.
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