HOT SPRINGS — It was an emotion-filled press conference.
Riverview had held off a furious rally from Central Arkansas Christian for a 64-58 win here Friday afternoon in the first game of the day.
For the Lady Raiders, it was their second straight title and 49th straight win.
For the Lady Mustangs, it was a story of what might have been.
“What a way to go out,” Riverview coach Ryan Smith said later. “Perfection doesn’t hardly ever happen, so this is really something special.”
CAC coach Steve Quattlebaum knew they had a shot.
“We could’ve won the game,” he said later.
His best player, Christyn Williams, had 35 points and played with far more maturity that most sophomores, but that’s why she’s already got scholarship offers from U-Conn and over 20 other top basketball programs.
But the points didn’t mean much.
“It’s tough,” she said later, fighting to keep her composure. “I missed a lot of shots I could have made. It was just one of those games.”
For Smith, though, it was the end of a 76-1 run over the last two years.
“It’s kinda like your wedding day,” he said, “it’s all kind of a blur. It’s really been unbelievable. We have been so balanced and everybody scores.
“But the big thing is they love each other. They really do.”
The Lady Raiders were paced by MVP Kayla Young’s 26 points. Fellow seniors Madison Riley added 19, Erykah Johns had 12 and Alexia Baker 5.
“I knew we had it when we came out,” Young said later. “I had confidence in us and we just wanted to get it done.”
Baker had what may have been the biggest key to this run by Riverview, though.
“We’ve been playing together since the second grade,” she said. “We know where everybody is going to be all the time.”
Even though it was the fifth meeting of the year between the two teams, Smith knew it wasn’t going to be easy. Young thought it was good luck.
“The fifth time had to be a charm,” she said, laughing.
Smith wasn’t as confident, but then coaches usually aren’t.
“We knew it would be a fight,” he said. “Christyn is an amazing player, but I’m just almost in awe of our team. Perfection is so hard to achieve.”
He has some good players coming back for another run next year, but he knows it’s not going to be easy.
Riverview led the entire way, jumping out to an 8-0 lead in an opening 13-3 run before CAC got things rolling.
From there every time the Lady Mustangs would get close, Riverview hit the key shots to pull away again.
It was Williams who got hot, leading a charge that cut the Lady Raiders’ 58-49 lead with 3:10 left down to 58-57 with 45 seconds remaining.
From there, it was a case where two key free throws from Baker with 24 seconds left turned a one-possession game into a two-possession game, then a pair of free throws by Riley made a three-possession game and Riverview had it’s second straight state title.