PORT BYRON — Experience reigned supreme Thursday night.
A young Riverdale girls basketball team fell to a veteran and eighth-ranked Harvest Christian Academy team 54-25 in a Class 2A regional final. But there's a lot of promise for the Rams moving forward.
"I think we've grown a lot throughout the season. I think we learned, to win a game we need to execute and communicate," sophomore Sidney Garrett said. "Their coach came up to us and talked to us and told us they were in our position (a few years ago), all their girls were young. ... I think it drives us to get where they are."
Garrett led the Rams (16-14) with 15 points and 13 rebounds and figures to be one of the fixtures for the Rams over the next two years. Riverdale has no seniors on the roster and started one freshman, two sophomore and two juniors Wednesday. Harvest Christian started two seniors and three juniors from a team that made it to the Class 1A semifinals last year.
That experience showed up quickly as the Lions (25-4) raced out to an 18-2 lead after the first quarter and led 28-8 at halftime, holding the Rams (16-14) to just three field goals in the half.
The lead swelled to 40-8 before Riverdale found a groove in the closing quarter.
The Rams tested themselves against teams in every class this season, and nights like Thursday are key to the team's growth, to see where they can reach if they put in the work.
"We've had girls who got playing time as freshmen and sophomores that will be invaluable over the next couple years," Riverdale coach Chris Mitchell said. "The experience they gained and understanding what it takes to get to the next level in a program is tremendous, and we gained a lot of that this year."
Alyssa Iverson led the Lions with 21 points while Grace Ringel added 14 points and seven rebounds.
Harvest Christian has high expectations coming off of last year's run but also knows the quality it is facing up a class. Winning a regional title is a good start to the postseason.
"I've been really impressed with their defense and applying pressure and the unselfish basketball," Lions coach Jeff Boldog said. "If we can keep playing good, strong, solid defense and keep moving the ball around, I think we have a chance to go pretty far."
But Boldog also said the Rams are a team to keep an eye on in the next few seasons.
"That's a good basketball team. They're young, but a talented team," he said. "There's definitely a state-bound trip for that group if they keep working hard and keep playing hard."