QUINCY – Riverside’s Zach Warden knocked down two free throws with 1.8 seconds left, but only after a controversial call where Ripley was called for a pushing foul on the low block after Chase Johnson tied the game at 50 at the free throw line. Warden’s free throws were enough to push the No. 8 ranked Warriors past the No. 6 ranked Vikings, 52-50. The Vikings led by as many as nine in the final quarter, but could not put Riverside away.
“I thought our guys battled,” Ripley head coach Evan Faulkner said, “We didn’t play great, shoot 40% from the field, which is by far our lowest of the year. We hung in there and gave ourselves a chance. It just didn’t go our way at the end.”
As expected, Thursday night’s contest was feisty and choppy from the outset. The two squads have developed quite the rivalry over the past two seasons, both as sectional and now state-ranked opponents. In fact, the last time these two teams played at Riverside, it was the Warriors who ended the Vikings’ season on another last second victory.
Still, Thursday night’s game showed just how far both programs have come in such a short time. The Vikings held a slim 12-11 advantage after one, and continued to hold the lead into the second quarter on the output of senior Luke Layhew and junior Nathan Hall. Hall scored all 10 of his points in the quarter as the Vikings took a 23-22 lead into the locker room at the half.
Ripley continued to press their advantage in the second half. Two of their key cogs, juniors Chase Johnson and Jamison Hunt, fought valiantly through the physical defense of the Warriors, but were held well below their season averages scoring wise. On the other hand, the Viking defense and Johnson in particular, did a fantastic job of limiting Riverside’s leading scorer Josh Carpenter. Carpenter was held to just four points on 2-14 shooting on the night, as Ripley maintained a 38-34 lead heading into the final quarter.
In many ways, the fourth quarter was a microcosm of the whole game. At times, it looked as if the Vikings were on the verge of pulling away. Each time that happened, the Warriors found a way to get back into the game, largely through the efforts of senior guard Henry Barron-Houchins. Houchins, who eclipsed the 1,000-point barrier for his career in the first, scored five straight points to cut into Ripley’s nine point lead with under four minutes remaining. From that point on, the Vikings were clinging to the lead, eventually surrendering it due to turnovers and an inability to convert chances. While the Warriors grabbed momentum, it was Layhew who made sure to keep the Vikings afloat. The senior big man got tough baskets underneath and even knocked down a three pointer in the fourth. Still, the tide had turned and the Warriors held a slim 50-49 lead with 18 seconds left. Ripley used the remaining time to attempt a clean look, but the Warrior defense held firm. Ripley got the ball to Johnson, who got a contested shot away. While the shot was no good and Riverside got the rebound, the Vikings stole the ensuing inbounds play. After a wild scramble, Johnson ended up going to the line with 1.8 seconds to go. The chaos began after Johnson made his second of two free throws to tie the game. However, as Hall and Warden stepped off the block on the release, Warden fell to the ground. A pushing foul was called on Hall, infuriating the Ripley coaches, players and fans. Warden stepped to the line and sunk both free throws and once Eli Casto’s desperation half-court heave bounced off the rim, Riverside escaped with the 52-50 win.
After the game, an obviously disappointed Faulkner tried to deconstruct what had just transpired.
“For whatever reason, we just couldn’t find anything,” Faulkner said, “They did a good job guarding us. They did a good job guarding our post, but we’ll look at the film and try to be better.”
“It’s a learning experience,” Faulkner concluded, “You’ve got to fight through some adversity. We’ll continue to work in practice. We have a few days off coming up, so we all need it. We’ve hit that wall, so to speak. We’ll come back and get ready for Parkersburg South.”
Layhew led the Vikings with 17, followed by Hall’s 10 and Johnson’s eight points and 12 rebounds. Casto and Elijah Riffe each finished with five points; Hunt, four; and Logan McKinney rounded out the scoring with one. The Vikings were 19 of 47 (40.4%) from the floor on the night, including 5-17 (29.4%) from three and 7-17 (41.2%) from the line.
Barron-Houchins led the Warriors with 17 points, while Warden finished with 11. The Warriors were held to 19-of-48 (39.6%) shooting, but outrebounded the Vikings 38 to 27.
The loss drops Ripley to 13-4 on the season, while Riverside moved to 11-4. The Vikings return to action on Wednesday night in the Little General Shootout at the Big House event in the Charleston Civic Center, where they will take on Parkersburg South, last year’s Class AAA state runner-up. Tip-off is set for 8:20 p.m.