Dusty Herscher didn’t expect to see Marcus Reed on the floor against Oak Hill, but he was surely glad he did.
The senior guard calmly swished a pair of free throws with no time left on the clock Monday to give Herscher’s Riverside Warriors a frantic, 51-50 triumph over Oak Hill before a sparse crowd at the Lilly Center.
“He wasn’t supposed to play,” Herscher said of Reed, his leading scorer who has been battling the flu. “He said, ‘Coach, I’m ready.’ ”
With his team trailing 50-49 after a Tyus Wood deuce off a Reed assist and a missed Oak Hill free throw, Reed — who didn’t play until the fourth period — was fouled going up for a field goal attempt on the baseline and proceeded to the line for the crucial charity tosses.
“I thought he (the Oak Hill defender) got him with the body,” said Herscher. “It was a good call, but it was a tough call.”
“It is what it is,” said Oak Hill’s first-year coach, Walt Raines. “The kid made two free throws and they won.”
Reed’s winning free throws dashed the hopes of the Red Devil faithful, who saw their team turn a strong showing after intermission into an 11-point lead early in the fourth period. Following an animated time-out during which Raines slammed a clipboard to the floor, the Red Devils caught fire. A 10-0 spurt — ignited by a pair of 3-pointers by Ervin Fruit and also featuring 2-point goals from Joey Re and Deon Marion — elevated Oak Hill into a 41-32 lead at the 1:03 mark of the third frame.
“I was just trying to wake them up,” Raines said of the time-out. His team responded, becoming more productive offensively and getting solid defensive stops. “We went to a 1-2-2 zone and that helped us get going.”
Riverside didn’t fold, though. With the hosts leading by 11, 45-34, Riverside bucketed 13 of the game’s next 16 points to trim the deficit to one, 48-47, with 1:06 remaining.
“We told (the players) they had to step up their defensive intensity, that we had to play or go home with another loss,” explained Herscher. “Our seniors came through big time, with Marcus taking the ball and driving, Nick Light rebounding and Tim Womack with the defensive intensity.
“We probably got almost every 50-50 ball, and we caused some turnovers (down the stretch).”
Raines said a succession of close setbacks may have made things tougher for the Red Devils in the game’s latter stages.
“We’ve had some really tough, close losses,” he said. “They wanted it so bad.
“We just got a little anxious, and we just didn’t make the plays we were making up to that point.”
With Oak Hill leading 5-4 on a Marc Logan deuce, Riverside used a 9-0 spurt — led by Light’s six points — to go ahead 13-5 as the first quarter wound down.
In arrears 25-14 midway through the second, Oak Hill responded with a 9-0 run of its own to get back into contention. Marion scored on a putback, Re scored off a turnover, Logan buried a trey from the right corner, and Marion put in two more points following another Warrior miscue, leaving Oak Hill behind by just two, 25-23, with 1:19 to go.
Light closed with 16 points and 11 rebounds to pace Riverside, and Wood scored 13 and pulled down 10 boards. Quan Brock passed out three assists.
Marion tallied a game-high 22 points for Oak Hill, in addition to clearing eight rebounds. Fruit registered nine points, seven assists and five steals, Logan scored nine, and Re had eight points and 11 rebounds. Kadrin Goodman added seven rebounds.
The win was an important one for Riverside, said Herscher. “That’s a big win for us, especially on the road. It keeps us at the .500 level. When you get below .500, it’s hard to stay positive.”
The Warriors host Capital Friday before facing Tug Valley Saturday in a tournament at Williamson.
Oak Hill, 2-7 and losers of six straight, played without leading scorer Jalen Jones, who quit the squad. The Red Devils host Shady Spring Thursday and play at Wyoming East Friday.
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Marcus Reed 1 2-3 4, Tamar Lawson 1 2-2 5, Quan Brock 0 0-0 0, Nick Light 7 1-2 16, Tyus Wood 6 0-1 13, Tim Womack 2 1-1 5, Josh Butcher 3 0-0 8, Roberto Innis 0 0-0 0. Totals: 20 6-9 51.
Oak Hill (2-7)
Kadrin Goodman 0 0-0 0, Deon Marion 8 6-8 22, Joey Re 4 0-1 8, Ervin Fruit 3 1-2 9, Marc Logan 4 0-0 9, Kyalo Bradford 1 0-0 2, Deonté Scruggs 0 0-0 0. Totals: 20 7-11 50.
R 15 12 7 17 — 51
OH 8 15 20 7— 50
3-point goals — R: 5 (Lawson, Light, Wood, Butcher 2); OH: 3 (Fruit 2, Logan). Fouled out — None.o