HENDERSONVILLE - The McCallie Blue Tornados fell behind by as many as 10 points in the first 12 minutes of the game Thursday night, but that was before Eric Rivers decided to take over, leading his team to a 68-53 victory over host JPII.
Trailing by seven in the second quarter, Rivers lead a furious 10-0 run that culminated with an and-one plus the free throw from the junior to give his team a lead they would not relinquish.
“Eric (Rivers) forces you to pay so much attention to him,” JPII head coach Charles Wade said. “He is one of the top guards in the state without-a-doubt. He is a very good basketball player. He is fast, can shoot, drive, just a good all round basketball player.”
McCallie controlled the offensive glass and the paint for the entire second quarter, registering five offensive rebounds, eight paint points, and five second chance points during the eight minute stretch.
After tying the game back at 32 following a Michael Martini 3-pointer, McCallie closed out the half with a 6-0 run for the 38-32 advantage.
“I thought they shot the ball well tonight,” Wade said of McCallie. “We did a good job of pushing the lead out in the first 12 minutes but then they had a stretch where they made about five 3-pointers in-a-row. Trying to control Rivers and keeping them from driving, they did a really good job of finding their shooters. Give them credit, they made their shots.”
JPII cut the halftime deficit down to five following a 6-0 run of their own midway threw the third quarter, but back-to-back offensive rebounds and a 3-point field goal for the Blue Tornados all but broke the backs of the Knights.
“We’ve been preaching about rebounds and it cost us against Christian Brothers last week,” Wade added. “We just didn’t box out and it was the difference in the game. We talk about it in practice but we have got to have someone step up and grab rebounds for us. That sequence really hurt us.”
In total, McCallie secured 12 offensive rebounds and registered 11 second chance points.
“It’s hard to win ball games when you don’t rebound,” Wade said. “Even when we were on our little run of winning games I thought we needed to do a better job of rebounding. We will continue to preach it in practice.”
Along with Rivers’ 24 points, McCallie’s Trey Hamilton added 19 points including five 3-pointers.
“He just couldn’t miss tonight,” Wade said of Hamilton. “We talked about it before the game that he was kind of their go-to guy. He can shoot it and put it on the floor. It’s hard to stop him when Rivers is driving to the basket the way he was tonight. They did a good job of finding their open guys.”
The game wasn’t all bad for JPII. The Knights did really good things including knock down five 3-point field goals, register 24 paint points, secure seven offensive rebounds, and add seven second chance points.
That said, when playing good teams like McCallie you cannot afford to take a possession or two off on either end of the floor.
“We had some lulls tonight,” Wade said. “I wish we could have played better in stretches, but I thought in the second half our defense was better when we switched to the 1-2-2 and put Sam (Specht) at the top. I thought he did a good job of controlling their speed and redirecting some of their passes.
“We are still maturing as a team right now,” Wade continued. “We are getting there and I honestly feel like we are so much better off than where we were. I truly believe I have 11 or 12 guys that can score the ball. That said I thought we could have done a better job of putting a body on those guys for rebounds.”
JPII will be back in action this Saturday, December 13, 4:00 p.m. against BGA at home.
Boys Box Score
McCallie (68): Rivers 24, Hamilton 19, Saizonou 11, Self 5, Hardy 4, Elliot 2, Craig 2.
JPII (53): Sam Specht 19, Elijah Hollins 11, Sabino Otira 10, Taggert Patterson 6, Connor Tuerff 4, Michael Martini 3.