Leesburg, Va. — With about 40 seconds left in overtime, Riverside High School boys basketball coach Mike Koscinski wanted to talk it over with him team. Trailing by just one to reigning VHSL 5A State runner up Freedom, the Rams had the ball underneath their own basket. On the whistle, Riverside senior guard Zach Dausch looked into the corner, where he inbounded the ball to sophomore guard JP Dausch. In front of the Riverside student section, in his first regular season varsity game, and after missing each of his previous three-point attempts on the night, the younger Dausch hit nothing but net to give the Rams the lead and eventual, 58-56, win over the Eagles on January 6 in Leesburg.
“We knew that JP had a lot of confidence,” Koscinski said. “He was one of the three cutters that we drew it up to get open, because we knew if he had the ball in his hands he was going to make the shot.”
The Rams’ journey to even get to overtime was an uphill climb after the Eagles jumped out to an early 23-15 lead after the first quarter.
“We’re new to 5A, so we have to find out if we can run with these guys. We feel we can run with these guys, but the reality of actually doing that is different,” Koscinski said. “It took us awhile tonight to adjust and find our groove.”
Led by senior point guard Beau Everett, Riverside turned up the defensive intensity in the second quarter, going on a 12-0 run to open the second to head into the half leading 30-29.
Freedom brought a renewed energy out of the locker as sophomore guard Elijah Easter and senior guard Robbie Kemmerer quickly knocked down threes to retake the lead and senior forward Anish Kaylan added 6 of his game-high 18 points to give the Eagles a 46-44 lead heading into the fourth.
Riverside senior forward Michael Ziller – who matched Kaylan with 18 of his own – scored early in the fourth to tie things up then knocked down a three-pointer to take a three-point lead.
Boys Basketball: Riverside sophomore guard JP Dausch drills a late three to give the Rams the lead and an eventual win over Freedom. @RHS_Rams_Hoops 58, @Freedom_BBall 56 FINAL/OT #LoCoHoops @LoCoSports pic.twitter.com/Mva066BjFB
— Owen Gotimer (@BigO_Gotimer) January 7, 2020
Then with about four minutes left in regulation the Eagles took a big blow when senior forward Lance Johnson headed to the bench with his fifth foul. Freedom responded, however, as Kaylan knocked down all eight of his free throws on the night, including six in the fourth quarter alone, sending the game into overtime, tied at 53-53.
“I like that we fought back at the end of the game, especially with one of the best players in the county not being able to play tonight because of foul trouble,” Freedom head coach Justin Powers said. “I really don’t think there’s a team more talented and that has the weapons that we have. We just have to be more of a cohesive unit.”
After Easter hit a pair of free throws to take a two-point lead, Riverside sophomore forward Jamie Ntiamoah hit the first half of his free throw attempts to cut the lead to one.
We’re kind of the underdog in a sense. We like the underdog role. We have stuff to prove. We play better that way.
—Riverside head coach Mike Koscinski
Then the Rams took their biggest blow of the night when Everett picked up his fifth foul with just over a minute to play in overtime.
“Beau is obviously our primary ball handler, so it was tough without him,” Ziller said. “We all just stepped up and made plays to get the win.”
A questionable non-foul call paired with a questionable out of bounds call set Riverside up under their own basket, where they drew up the pass to Dausch for the eventual game winner.
“I got to hand it to our guys for their grit and their ability to stay in their and give themselves a chance,” Koscinski said. “Mentally, with not making free throws, getting in a little rut there at the end, and Freedom attacking, we could have caved on this one. Our guys stayed poised, they had confidence, and they had hope.”
The win jumps Riverside (1-1, 7-4) to third place early in the Potomac District schedule, while the loss knocks Freedom (1-1, 7-5) to fourth. The Rams will look to earn their second district win when they host Briar Woods on January 9. The Eagles look to bounce back when they host Rock Ridge on the same night.
“We’re kind of the underdog in a sense. We like the underdog role,” Koscinski said. “We have stuff to prove. We play better that way.”