Leesburg, Va. — Coming into the season, the Riverside High School boys basketball team expected to see some junk defenses thrown their way, and Rams senior forward Michael Ziller expected to take the brunt of it. But even as Briar Woods routinely changed up its defensive looks—at times playing a box-and-one on Ziller—the senior was able to make an impact, scoring a game-high 26 points in the Rams’, 72-54, win over the Falcons on December 28 in Leesburg.
“My shot was falling early,” Ziller said. “They started keying on me, which made it easier for me to find my teammates.”
Ziller got hot from the jump, scoring 14 of his 26 points in the first quarter alone, connecting on 4 three-pointers. Briar Woods quickly adjusted to take Ziller out of the scoring picture—and held him scoreless in the second quarter—but Ziller was able to find the open man inside as junior forward Jamie Ntiamoah started to get more involved.
“When my shot wasn’t going a couple nights ago, a couple other guys stepped up,” Ziller said. “It’s really nice even when I’m not scoring to have other guys who can put the ball in the basket.”
To open the third quarter, the Falcons once again wanted to take Ziller out of the game offensively—and again they were relatively successful—however, the focus on Ziller left junior forward Cameron Koscinski open for a pair of three-pointers as the Rams expanded their lead to 51-37 after the third quarter.
“We move the ball well. We expected to see a lot of zone and less man, and we anticipated early they’d be focusing on Mike,” Riverside head coach Michael Koscinski said. “It happened to be Cameron who was open tonight, but it could have been anybody else.”
Along with the great offensive ball movement in the third quarter, the Rams shifted their focus defensively to put more pressure on Briar Woods senior point guard Michael Tehan. Tehan—who chipped in 9 points and 6 rebounds for the Falcons—is the catalyst that makes their offense work, and by focusing on him, Riverside was able to hold Briar Woods to just 11 points in the third quarter.
“Tyler Flynn came off the bench and pretty much made it hard for Tehan to get what he was getting in the first half. That was the big adjustment,” Koscinski said.
As the momentum shifted fully towards Riverside, Ntiamoah started to come alive, adding 8 of his 18 points in the fourth quarter, helping the Rams expand their lead to 20.
“Jamie comes from a very large, hardworking family. Basketball is one of the most important things in his life, not the most important, but one of the most important, and he’s really starting to love it,” Koscinski said. “He was in the gym six hours this weekend working on stuff. He was in the gym for an hour-and-a-half today just working on stuff, trying to clean it up before the game. He’s got a great work ethic. He just hoops and he hides. He’s either here at the gym or he’s home. He’s nowhere else right now.”
After falling into the 20-point hole, the Falcons started to chip away as junior guard Brayden Fetterman knocked down a pair of threes quickly and junior forward Kushagra Singhai came off the bench to add 9 points, 4 rebounds. Junior guard Javier Curry-Arregui finished with a team-high 13 points.
“Briar Woods is tough,” Koscinski said. “They space you out, they make you guard all five guys, and they got you running all over the place.”
A timeout allowed Riverside to regroup and finish strong, ending the game on a 9-3 run.
While the win was nice, like everyone else, the Rams are really just excited to be playing this winter.
“It’s just a good feeling to be able to be out here after all the work we’ve put in,” Riverside senior guard Declan Kohl said. “We had a long drought without playing—and with seeing a lot of areas in Virginia not being able to play—being out here and being able to play is just a good feeling, regardless of the circumstances.”
Echoing Kohl’s sentiment, Koscinski was also super appreciative of the LCPS administration for allowing this season to happen, especially for the seniors.
“It’s great for all the kids but particularly for the seniors to have this opportunity,” Koscinski said. “We’re appreciative we can play and appreciative of Derek Farrey, LCPS athletics, and all the ADs for making this happen.”
Briar Woods Stats