The River Ridge boys basketball team has lost its share of games during the regular season over the last few years.
However, once district play begins it’s a completely different story.
Brad Wallace scored 24 points, Jonathan Roberts added 13 and the Hawks registered their record 14th consecutive 2A District IV basketball tournament victory, 46-39, over Evergreen Conference 2A champion W.F. West in a semifinal clash Wednesday at Centralia High School.
“This team just doesn’t lose district games,” said River Ridge coach John Barbee. “They’re overachievers. Right around mid-December they started trusting each other and that’s when we turned the corner.”
River Ridge (16-6) punched its ticket to the district
championship game for the sixth consecutive season with the win. The Hawks are the four-time defending district champions and will face a familiar foe in the title contest in Greater Saint Helens League 2A champion Mark Morris (17-5).
The two squads will face each other 8 p.m. Friday at Saint Martin’s University.
“It seems like we’re always playing them at this time of the year,” said Wallace. “It always ends up being a good game.”
It marks the fifth title game between the Hawks and the Monarchs since 2008 with River Ridge winning the past three, including last season’s 52-46 victory.
In fact, the Hawks have not suffered a district loss since 2008 when Mark Morris posted a 58-46 triumph in the championship round.
River Ridge, which is 18-2 all-time in 2A district tournament play, hasn’t lost a district game since.
A lot of that has to do with the play of Wallace, the two-time EvCo most valuable player.
The River Ridge senior is a perfect 12-0 in district tournament games during his four years with the Hawks.
“I think its just because the team is peaking right around this time every year,” Wallace said. “Its been that way since I got here.”
Wallace scored a game-high 29 points and hit the game-winning 3-pointer with 1.1 seconds remaining in the Hawks 54-51 first-round victory over Washougal.
Wallace’s late-game heroics weren’t needed this time around as River Ridge turned a tie game at the end of the third quarter into a 10-point lead with 6 seconds to play due to its defense.
The Hawks held the Bearcats (15-7) to just one point on 0-for-11 shooting from the field during the opening 7 minutes, 54 seconds of the fourth quarter to build a 46-36 advantage.
“We were physical out there,” Barbee said about his team’s play in the final quarter, “and I think that wore them down at the end.”
Brock Wade, who paced all scorers with 27 points, got W.F. West off to a fast start, scoring the game’s first six points and 11 in the first quarter, to help the Bearcats to a 15-12 lead.
While Wade took charge of W.F. West’s offense, Roberts provided the early offensive punch for the Hawks, scoring the first seven points of the game for River Ridge, highlighted by a 4-point play.
Once the second quarter began, Wallace began to heat up, scoring 12 points and hitting his first five shots from the field in the quarter during a 15-2 run by the Hawks. Roberts capped the run with his second triple of the contest to push River Ridge advantage to 27-17.
“He’s just a special player,” Barbee said of Wallace. “I’ve been coaching almost 20 years and you don’t see players like him very often. Sometimes I just sit back and watch.”
Trailing 27-23 at the half, the Bearcats got a huge third quarter from Wade as the senior scored all 12 of the Bearcats’ points in the quarter, including a put-back bucket which tied the game at 35.
W.F. West went ice-cold from there on out, going just 1 of 13 from the field.