It was a do-or-die battle between two big rivals in the first round of the District 7-AAA tournament.
Fourth-seeded Oakland (17-9) held off fifth-seeded Riverdale (9-17) 49-45 Thursday night at Smyrna’s Harry Gill Jr. Gymnasium.
Dontae Lippert led Oakland with 11 points, and Kyle Oliver added 10. Riverdale’s Tomaz Gray scored 16, and Steven Wilson chipped in 13.
The Patriots led by as many as 10 for the first three quarters. Riverdale went on a 7-0 fourth-quarter run to tie the game up, but Oakland ultimately pulled away.
Offensive rebounds and second-chance points helped Oakland build the early lead in the first quarter. The Patriots dominated the boards. Twice on first-half possessions, the Patriots rebounded missed free throws and converted the rebounds into points. Oakland’s frontcourt players also rebounded missed shots to gain extra scoring opportunities in the first half.
“That really hurt us,” said Riverdale coach Kevin Woodson. “In the first half, they had 12 second-chance points. Down the stretch, we did a better job of blocking out and keeping them off the boards.”
Behind the strength of the early rebounding edge, the Patriots raced out to a 14-4 lead to take their biggest lead of the game.
Riverdale outscored Oakland 10-6 to cut the gap to six, 20-14. The teams exchanged baskets throughout the second quarter. Oakland had chances to cut the gap even more, but turned the ball over or missed shots. The Patriots took a 31-22 lead into the half.
The Warriors started connecting on 3-pointers in the third quarter to cut into Oakland’s lead. In the third quarter, Riverdale was 4-of-4 from behind the 3-point line and 0-of-4 on two-point shot attempts. Wilson connected on two 3-pointers. Gray had one, and Cameron Watkins had one.
“We needed the hit the 3 ball tonight,” Woodson said. “That got us back in the game.”
Riverdale swapped 3-point baskets with Oakland’s two-point baskets to chip away at the lead. The Patriots’ advantage was cut to five, 39-34, at the end of the third quarter.
After a Lippert basket gave Oakland a 41-34 lead, the Warriors scored seven unanswered points to tie the game at 41-all with six minutes left. Gray connected on a 3-pointer, and Wilson and Daulton Smith each had baskets in the run.
The Patriots responded by scoring four unanswered points of their own. Devin Epps made two free throws, and Emmanuel Smith made a basket right on the 3-point line, giving Oakland a 45-41 lead it never lost.
“They hit a couple of shots, they started making some 3s,” said Oakland coach Mike Wright. “And offensively, we got out of rhythm and we struggled to get that rhythm back. Even when things weren’t going our way, we found a way to win.”
Riverdale got it down to three at 48-45 with 26 seconds left. The Warriors had two opportunities to tie it or cut the gap to one after Oakland turnovers and missed free throws, but they failed to get shots to fall.
With the win, the Patriots advance to take on top-seeded Blackman Saturday. Oakland earned a spot in the Region 4-AAA tournament, which will be hosted by the Patriots. Riverdale’s season came to an end.
Oakland 49, Riverdale 45
Riverdale 13 9 12 11 – 45
Oakland 20 11 8 10 – 49
Riverdale – Tomaz Gray 16, Steven Wilson 13, Woodson 7, Watkins 4, Campbell 3, Thigpen 2.
Oakland – Dontae Lippert 11, Kyle Oliver 10, Dunaway 7, Smith 6, Stanberry 5, Epps 5, Eguabor 3, Welbourne 2.
The Wolverines (18-9) held off a furious Smyrna rally to win and secure a spot in the Region 4-AAA tournament.
La Vergne led by 10 in the fourth quarter, but the Bulldogs went on a run and cut the gap to four, 63-59, with 2:35 left.
Two of the Wolverines’ top scorers, Charlie Sutton and Dolo Sparks, fouled out in the fourth quarter.
J.J. Horner hit a 15-foot jumper with 1:34 left to increase the Wolverines’ lead back to six, 65-59.
La Vergne converted free throws in the final 1:30 to hold on for the win.
“Tonight is definitely the most important game of the tournament, by far, if you don’t have that opportunity for a first-round bye like Blackman and Siegel,” said La Vergne coach Chris Chambers. “I’m happy to get out of here with a win against what I thought was a tough Smyrna team, they came out and fought us every step of the way.”
La Vergne 75, Smyrna 64
Smyrna 15 11 21 17 – 64
La Vergne 18 19 13 25 – 75
Smyrna – Taylor Vanderbilt 21, Mulligan 13, McGuire 9, Frazier 8, Woodard 6, Johnson 5, Smith 2.
La Vergne – Isaiah Reese 19, Charlie Sutton 18, Marquis Johns 15, Dolo Sparks 13, Horner 4, Cowart 2, Reyes 2, Fuller 2.