By TED RADICK
MOUNT BLANCHARD — The Riverdale girls basketball team had a rough week last week, losing a pair of games including an upset at the hands of Buckeye Central that cost the Falcons a chance at an outright North Central Conference title.
The Falcons on Tuesday took out their frustration on Wynford, defeating the Royals 42-29. With 12-2 league records, Riverdale (15-5) and Wynford (16-5) will share the final NCC championship.
“I had to live by what I preach,” Riverdale coach Maryann Holderman said of the lost opportunity in the loss to Buckeye Central. “I always tell the girls, ‘next play.’ I had to think of the next game and that’s what we did. We came in on Saturday and just prepared for these guys.”
That preparation was apparent as the Falcons had a defensive answer for everything Wynford tried.
Dump it into the post to 6-foot center Brenna Quinn? Riverdale held her to six points, half her scoring average.
Kick it back outside for a 3-point shot? The Falcons were there with a hand in the face of the Royals’ shooters; Wynford went 3 of 17 from beyond the arc.
“All week in practice we’ve been drilling on Wynford,” Riverdale’s Bre Parish said. “We knew our defense had to defend all the outside shooters they have. We talked about it at halftime, that defense was going to be our way into this game.”
That halftime talk worked wonders. The Falcons trailed 22-19 at the break and held the Royals to seven points in the second half, and just two in the fourth quarter.
Three of those points came to start the second half from Wynford’s Meghan Harrer, who led the Royals with 10 points.
The game was nip-and-tuck through the first three quarters, with neither team able to build a lead. Parish gave the Falcons a 29-27 lead at the third-quarter buzzer with a layup off a nifty feed from Janessa Taylor.
Riverdale’s Sydney Holderman opened the fourth quarter with a 3-pointer, and drilled another with 4:37 remaining to give the Falcons a 35-27 lead. It was one month to the day after she snapped a collarbone in half and missed eight games.
“My teammates found me with open shots,” Sydney Holderman said. “It could just as well been anyone hitting those shots, it just happened to be me tonight.”
That kind of selfless attitude stood the Falcons in good stead. Leading scorer Jordyn Wright, averaging 16.7 points per game coming in, was held to two.
“If you take me away, someone’s going to step up and we’re going to get the job done no matter what,” Wright said.
Tiffany Wright led the Falcons with 11 points and Holderman scored 10. Jordyn Wright had five assists and five steals, numbers that weren’t lost by her teammates despite the low scoring total.
“We don’t have any selfish players on our team,” Parish said. “That’s the key to a good team, in my opinion. We all look to feed the open player, and if it wasn’t Jordyn tonight she was perfectly fine being on the opposite end of it.
“We have no egos to deal with, and we’re all just totally happy with each other.”
Once the Falcons built their lead, they finished with a flourish.
Tiffany Wright scored on a conventional three-point play after she found an opening under the basket while Riverdale was running a four-corner offense. Taylor Frey hit another layup after a Wynford turnover, and Tiffany Wright’s two free throws with 1:29 remaining completed a 15-0 run that lasted more than nine minutes.
The Royals scored at least 50 points in all but two games this season, and at least 45 in all of them. Jordyn Wright said Riverdale’s strategy was basic, but effective.
“We had to get a hand in the shooter’s faces, and we didn’t let Quinn get any rolls to the basket,” she said. “We applied more pressure and stepped up our game.”
Wynford coach Amy Taylor-Sheldon said she’ll miss playing the Falcons as the NCC comes to an end after this school year.
“Playing Riverdale twice a season, from a Wynford point of view, makes us a better basketball team,” she said. “Sharing a league title with a team like Riverdale is nothing to be ashamed of.”
The Falcons were happy with a share, too, after the disappointment of losing a 12-point halftime lead last week against Buckeye Central.
“Sometimes things have to fall apart before they fall together,” Jordyn Wright said. “We had no choice but to win tonight. We had no choice. The Buckeye Central game, we got too comfortable. Not that we underestimated them, but we just weren’t as prepared as we should have been.”
“This was our one goal at the beginning of this year,” Parish said. “It’s the last year, we want to go out with a bang. Us seniors, we’ve never had a conference championship before. This is the one thing we really wanted this year.”
Wynford (16-5, 12-2 NCC)
Richmond 3-0—6, M. Harrer 4-0—10, A. Harrer 0-0—0, Delong 2-0—5, Quinn 2-2—6, Harris 1-0—2, Alspach 0-0—0, Moore 0-0—0, Stenson 0-0—0. TOTALS: 12-42 2-3—29.
Riverdale (15-5, 12-2 NCC)
T. Wright 2-6—11, Holderman 4-0—10, Parish 3-0—6, J. Wright 1-0—2, Frey 3-0—7, Walter 1-2—4, Taylor 1-0—2. TOTALS: 15-45 8-10—42.
Wynford 11 11 5 2 — 29
Riverdale 14 5 10 13 — 42
3-Point GOALS: Wynford 3-17 (M. Harrer 2, Delong); Riverdale 4-14 (Holderman 2, T. Wright, Frey).
rebounds: Wynford 30 (Quinn 10); Riverdale 28 (T. Wright 7).
turnovers: Wynford 14, Riverdale 11.
junior varsity: Riverdale, 36-25.