MADISON - The Riverdale boys basketball squad started its New Year's Eve celebration early Wednesday after topping Alcovy 53-37 to win the Sweet South Classic at Morgan County High School.
"We're proud of the guys (and) the effort to get to the finals. We just didn't play as well as we would have liked," Alcovy coach Eugene Brown said. "Give (Riverdale) some credit - they did what they do better than we did what we do. We ended up losing, but we finished the year on a pretty good note."
Alcovy seniors Jordan Butts and Denicolus Wilson were selected to the all-tournament team.
The Tigers (8-3 overall) opened the gates by taking an early 13-8 lead after the first stanza. Despite just two rebounds, Alcovy never trailed in the initial eight minutes thanks to two field goals apiece by Darrius Miller and Jamieson Smith.
However, Alcovy finished with five boards in the first half and 15 for the game, outrebounded by Riverdale by more than double.
The Raiders scored nine points off eight turnovers in the second quarter to end the deficit. A 3-pointer by Riverdale's Byron Graham tied the score at 22 at halftime.
Graham finished with a game-high 22 points.
After trading 3-pointers to begin the third quarter - one by Alcovy's Brad Williams, the other by Carlos Collier - Riverdale took the lead for good 27-25 after a Graham field goal with 4:12 remaining in the quarter.
The closest Alcovy came was on a deep ball by Williams late in the third to make it 29-28.
The Raiders outscored the Tigers 20-7 in the final quarter, half coming from the free-throw line. They finished the game on an 11-2 run before securing the championship.
Overall, Riverdale shot 11 of 15 from the charity stripe (73 percent) while Alcovy was 2 of 6.
"We just gotta know that if we do what we practice doing and train to do, we can compete against anybody," Brown said. "We just didn't get the shots to fall tonight, but credit their defense."
Riverdale's Judson Dillard, who was named the tournament's Most Valuable Player, finished with 16 points.
Smith ended with a team-high 11 points. Miller added 10 points and eight rebounds.
Jason Murdock can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.