Riverdale biggest weapon this season and during its unlikely run to the NYSAISAA title game was its sharp shooting. The Falcons’ sweep strokes allowed them to hang with a more athletic Dwight club for a half in the title game.
“We knew we had to shoot the ball well,” senior forward Tom Ryan said. “It’s how we won games all year, shooting the ball.”
Good shots stopped going down after the break. They rolled out, popped out or were off the mark. No. 7 seeded Riverdale’s shooting woes were too much to overcome in a 74-55 loss to No. 4 Dwight in the NYSAISAA Class B boys’ basketball title game at Fieldston last Sunday. The Falcons were looking to claim its second straight crown after winning for the first time in school history last year. Riverdale returned just one starter. Ryan, played on a team that lost to eventual Federation champion Monsignor Scanlan in Albany last March. A lot of improvement went into get this far.
“We really worked hard this year and really got better as the year went on,” said Ryan, who had 16 points. “We are proud that we won our first two [playoff] games. We wish we could have played a little better tonight, but I love this team and I’m happy with what we accomplished.”
He scored inside attacking the basket and Michael Gardner had things going offensively in the first half. Gardner scored 13 of his 18 points before the break. His 3-pointer from the left corner put Riverdale up 25-22 with 1:34 left in the stanza.
“After the first two or three went in I knew I was going to start hitting some,” Gardner said.
Dwight slowly took control of the game from there. Riverdale (13-9) couldn’t get shots to fall after halftime and Dwight closed up the middle on defense. The Falcons watched Dwight (23-6) get out in transition after their misses and burry key three pointers. Richard “Pee Wee” Kirkland Jr. and Kieron Hamilton both scored 23 points a peace and Jeremey Bonifacio added 11. The Lions used a 15-9 run, capped by a Hamilton 3-pointer from the right corner, to take a 37-30 lead with 6:23 left in the third quarter.
“It was tough,” Ryan said. “I usually shoot the ball better. I know that a lot of guys felt in the second half shots weren’t going down. There is noting you can do. You just have to keep battling.”
Riverdale got within 43-34 on a Jared Gaer jumper with 2:20 remaining in the frame. Dwight, which is making its first trip to the state Federation tournament since 1998, answered with a dunk by Jeremy Bonifacio and a Kirkland layup. Riverdale never seriously threatened again.
The run to the final as a No. 7 seed was still a memorable one for Riverdale, despite not earning a return trip to Albany. The Falcons beat No. 2 Poly Prep in the quarterfinals and No. 3 Dalton in the semis. Gardner felt they showed they could rebuild quickly and Ryan believes it shows how far the program has come.
“Second place, it’s not bad,” Ryan said. “We hope the program continues to play in these games and win them in the future.”