The slow starts that troubled the River Ridge High School boys basketball team earlier this season are quickly disappearing.
Kelle Sanders made that clear with a steal — and subsequent slam dunk — less than a minute into Wednesday night’s win over Clover Park.
That set off an early 17-3 run by the Hawks, who never trailed the Warriors on their way to a 67-51 win at River Ridge High School.
“I think guys are just looking to attack,” River Ridge coach John Barbee said. “I think guys are starting to figure out what their strengths are.”
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River Ridge, as it historically has, is starting to get more comfortable as the season progresses. Nine times in the first quarter the Hawks forced Clover Park turnovers, often scoring in transition.
“We’re pretty good at pressing in spots and not living and dying by it,” Barbee said.
Alex Coleman, who scored a game-high 16 points, stole the ball from the Warriors at midcourt with two minutes to play in the first quarter.
He shoved a bounce pass to Jordan Skipper-Brown, who flushed the ball through the hoop, pushing River Ridge’s lead to double digits at 14-3.
That’s how the game worked on several trips up the floor early on.
“It’s getting more comfortable, but we haven’t figured it out yet,” Skipper-Brown said. “We’re still working out the kinks.”
River Ridge allowed only nine points from its Class 2A South Puget Sound League rival in the first quarter, including a Clover Park scoring drought that lasted more than five minutes.
There were five moments in the second and third quarters when the Warriors cut the lead just below 10 points, but River Ridge consistently had answers.
Coleman gave the Hawks a 12-point lead when he nailed a 3-pointer with 3:46 to go in the third, and River Ridge continued to build from there.
Seven different players scored multiple baskets for the Hawks, and Coleman (16), Skipper-Brown (13) and DeNero Washington (10) each scored in double digits.
Clover Park — led by Deonte Jackson, who had 14 points, and Davien Harris-Williams, who had 12 — put up 17 points in the fourth quarter, but couldn’t get within striking distance.
River Ridge made eight of its final 11 free throws — the game had 58 total free throw attempts, including 31 in the fourth quarter — to keep the game at a manageable distance.
“Mel (Ninnis) does a good job coaching, he’s a good coach,” Barbee said. “He won (the 2A state championship) six years ago. He knows what he’s doing. So, to hold them to 51? I’ll take that.”
This was the third straight meeting in which River Ridge (8-3, 4-1 2A SPSL Sound Division) has bested Clover Park.
“I thought it was a good team win,” Barbee said.
Clover Park 9 16 9 17_51
River Ridge 20 15 14 18_67
CP – Harris 9, McDaniels 2, Harris-Williams 12, Jackson 14, Grassi 6, Sealey 5, Quabner 3
RR – Coleman 16, Dorfner 7, Skipper-Brown 13, Washington 10, Knox 6, Sanders 6, Kennedy 9