District success continues as Hawks top R.A. Long

Contributing writerFebruary 16, 2014 

If any team knows how to win in the 2A District IV boys basketball tournament, it’s River Ridge.

Players graduate and the lineups change, but the Hawks continue to pile up the postseason victories.

LaBrandon Price scored 14 points and Jason Kananin and Issiah Scott both scored 11 as River Ridge used a late run to post a 65-58 win over visiting R.A. Long on Saturday in the opening round of the tournament.

The Hawks, who seek a sixth consecutive district championship, have won 15 straight district tournament games.

“It’s become the expectations around here,” River Ridge coach John Barbee said. “It’s not, let’s get to districts and see how we do. The program has become about winning it.”

The Hawks (12-9) will face a familiar foe in the semifinals in Greater Saint Helens League 2A champion Mark Morris.

The two schools will meet at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Kelso High School.

“It’s the epic matchup,” Barbee said. “Every year we seem to face Mark Morris at districts. Unfortunately, it’s not in the championship. I think (we) would prefer that more since it means we’d already have a berth to the state tournament. Mark Morris is just a great program.

“We’re excited to be able to play them again.”

The Hawks, which have not lost in districts since 2008, defeated the Monarchs, 50-47, in last year’s title game.

“We don’t want to be the team that sees the streak end,” Price said. “We want to keep adding to it.”

The Hawks, the No. 2 seed out of the 2A Evergreen Conference, built a 17-point halftime lead before seeing the visiting Lumberjacks rally in the second half, getting within a bucket at 52-50 with 41/2 minutes to play.

A 10-1 run, highlighted by a pair of Price baskets and two Scott layups, helped the Hawks pull away down the stretch.

“At this time of year there’s no bad teams left,” Barbee said. “Every one of them is capable of making a run and that’s what happened tonight. I was very pleased how our young kids weathered the storm and responded.”

The Hawks also received 10 points from Austin Parker and eight from Thayer Murphy.

The Lumberjacks, the No. 3 seed from the 2A GSHL, hit five 3-pointers in the second half to cut into the deficit and make it a game late.

Bryce Eisele paced R.A. (10-12) with 19 points, while teammate Morgan Baker added 16.

Kananin scored nine and Price chipped in eight as the Hawks doubled up the Lumberjacks, 34-17, at the half.

River Ridge’s 2-3 zone forced everything outside for R.A. Long in the first half.

It proved to be the correct strategy as the Lumberjacks opened the game missing nine out of its first 10 shots and 22 of 28 attempts from the field in the half.

The Hawks kicked off the contest on an 11-3 run and gradually added to their lead throughout the first half.

An 8-0 run opened the second quarter for River Ridge before a Kananin 3-pointer pushed the advantage to 25-7.

A strong defensive effort combined with plenty of offensive putbacks gave the Hawks the commanding cushion at the intermission.

River Ridge 65, R.A. Long 58

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