John Barbee was not on the River Ridge boys basketball bench Friday night.
Serving a one-game suspension after being ejected earlier this week, the Hawks coach was in a restaurant in Tacoma, awaiting scoring updates from his third-ranked team’s showdown at No. 10 White River.
He probably choked on a few French fries very early at dinner.
Without their coach, and also fighting through nasty freeway traffic causing them to arrive late, the Hawks did not let any of that deter them.
River Ridge walloped the Hornets, 71-29, to grab firm control of the Class 2A South Puget Sound League championship race.
“Like I told them in line afterward, the last time I got my (butt) beat like that — that team won a state title, and it was Clover Park (in 2011),” White River coach Rick Tripp said. “River Ridge plays at that level. They are so athletic. And if they get you in the first quarter, they know how to close you out.”
This Hawks’ team dealt with a lot this week — starting with Barbee’s ejection late in their 83-61 victory against Franklin Pierce on Tuesday.
That gave longtime assistant coach Pat Williams his first opportunity to coach a varsity game.
“He asked me, ‘Are you comfortable?’ ” Williams said. “And I said, ‘Don’t worry — I got you. I am extension of you, and I am not going to do anything different.’ ”
Even without junior Jordan Skipper-Brown, who missed the game because of a death in the family, the Hawks (14-1, 10-0) kept hitting the offensive glass with 16 of their 24 points in the first quarter coming on second chances.
“I really cannot explain it.” Issiah Scott said. “We were just hooping.”
Scott said he slept through the traffic jam heading to the game, but woke up in time to carry the scoring load.
He scored 13 points of his game-high 19 points in the first 2 minutes, 33 seconds of the second quarter, including three 3-pointers.
His last one from deep in the left corner hit nothing but net. And on River Ridge’s next trip, his putback bucket gave his team a 39-8 lead.
A 39-8 lead in Buckley? That rarely happens.
“Our guard play really gets us going,” Williams said. “When you start hitting those (3-pointers), it gets contagious, and runs through our bench.”
The Hornets (10-6, 7-3) scored just six field goals in the first half (6-of-18), and were really hurt by 13 turnovers.