Ashburn, VA (March 1, 2019) - When you get to this point in the playoffs--two wins away from the state championship game--it's really hard to gauge just how good the teams are relative to each other.
This quarterfinal matchup featured a visiting team, the GW-Danville Eagles, who had lost in their region final, and a home team, the Riverside Rams, who had won theirs. Both had great regular seasons and spectacular district and region results, but they had no common opponents on their schedules so a direct comparison was virtually impossible.
All we knew is that both teams had to be good to get here, and the Stone Bridge court would have to decide who was better. And, thirty minutes ahead of game time, the stands were full and roaring each time the teams entered and re-entered for warmups.
Chas Sumser Photography was there to capture the action and emotion and posted a gallery of images from the game.
To open the game play was frenetic, to say the least, with sprinting, diving, athletic bodies flying all over the place, but the Rams seemed to find their stride a bit more quickly taking an early 12-4 lead before GW could get going. But the Eagles did find their footing and tied the game up as the first quarter ended, 16-16.
Riverside retained an edge throughout the second period. GW would fall slightly behind, but no more than three points, and then tie the game up again. But each time the score evened out the Rams would go ahead again including right before the first half ended with a 28-26 Riverside lead.
At halftime it felt like the Rams had been efficient and accurate while the Eagles had scored more frequently off acrobatic rebounds of missed shots. GW had trouble making free throws, too, and that was significant because the first half had been filled with fouls called on both teams.
GW finally took their first lead at 7:21 remaining in the third quarter, but, again, Riverside would sneak ahead. But now the lead started changing hands and would belong to the Eagles as the third period ended, 44-43.
The fourth quarter was an absolute whirlwind--as it should be with rights to continue playing on the line. The Rams pushed out to a five-point lead, which had their "white out" clad fans in a frenzy with just two minutes to play. But the Eagles came all of the way back to tie it and even had multiple chances to take the lead as the final buzzer sounded sending the teams to overtime, 55-55.
In the extra period, for the first time all game, GW was the team that built the big lead moving ahead by 60-55. But Riverside was bound and determined not to lose, and tied it up with less than a minute to play, 62-62.
The Eagles last possession was just as wild as the whole game. At times it looked like they were trying to smoothly possess the ball, and it times it looked like they were trying to throw it away. But they didn't throw it away, and Kapone Barley found himself with the ball and a three-point shot available, and he promptly banked it in with less than three seconds to go.
The Eagles stormed the court and mobbed their teammate, yet time still remained for Riverside to inbound the ball and take one desperation shot. But Simon Weeren's heave fell short, and so did the Rams' collective aspirations.
Congratulations, Eagles! Well done, Rams.
Final Score: GW-Danville 65 - Riverside 62