4-A QUARTERS: No. 19 Riverside girls to face No. 2 SE Raleigh
The underdog Riverside Pirates hope to continue their playoff odyssey with tonight’s Eastern Regional semifinal game against Southeast Raleigh at Fayetteville’s Crown Coliseum.
The Pirates entered the girls’ state basketball tournament as the No. 19 seed, but pulled off wins against No. 14 seed Greenville Conley, No. 3 seed Cary and No. 6 seed Fayetteville E.E. Smith to advance to tonight’s Elite Eight game, the state quarterfinals.
And though her team is the lowest of the remaining seeds in the East, Pirates coach Alicia Jones doesn’t care what you label her 19-8 squad.
“It doesn’t matter,” Jones said. “It doesn’t matter. People can call the team what they (want). The girls know that they got here on their own merit, and (they) deserve to be here (today).”
Southeast Raleigh is the No. 2 seed in the East, carrying a gaudy 24-2 record into tonight’s 8:30 p.m. game. Both losses came against out-of-state teams, and the Bulldogs dominated the Greater Neuse River Conference.
But Jones said her team won’t be fazed.
“I expect for the girls to continue playing they have been for the last three games,” Jones said. “They’ve been going out, playing as if it was their last game and putting it all on the floor. No regrets.”
And of Riverside could somehow pull off the upset — well, not so fast, Jones said.
“I wouldn’t consider it an upset,” Jones said. “But I do expect us to move on.”
Jones’ team has done it with a deep team, and any of seven players could step up and lead the Pirates on a given night. For Riverside, it truly is a team effort, given the lack of one superstar.
But hold on again, Jones said.
“Oh, yes there is a superstar,” Jones countered. “We have about seven of them.”
Seniors Andrea’Anna Poole and Kiara Jacobs are the team leaders, but Jones has talent up and down her roster. Moné Jones, a 6-foot-3 junior, is a talented post player and one of the nation’s premier college prospects — she’s rated a 4-star prospect on a 0 to 5 scale by ESPN — while sophomore Zaria Rogers is an emerging perimeter threat.
Coach Jones admitted that she hasn’t spent much time studying Southeast Raleigh, preferring to get her team ready. But with Moné Jones in the post, Riverside has a size advantage and rim protection inside. She could add more offensively as well if her teammates can get her the ball.
“I haven’t put much emphasis on looking at their team,” Jones said. “I’ve been moreso preparing my team. I do know they have scrappy guards, just like we do. But I do have an advantage as far as height, and I plan to use that to the best of my ability.”
NOTES — If Riverside advances tonight, it will play the winner of tonight's 7 p.m. No. 5 Hillside-No. 1 Millbrook game in Saturday's 4 p.m. East Region championship game at Crown Coliseum. That winner will advance to the state 4-A championship game Saturday, March 15 at Reynolds Coliseum on the N.C. State University campus in Raleigh.