The short road to the Class 2A state regionals turned into a long one for the River Ridge High School boys basketball team.
Following an upset loss to Kingston, 60-54, in the second round of the 2A West Central District tournament on Friday at Wilson High School, the ninth-ranked Hawks are one defeat away from elimination.
Now, River Ridge has to win twice to secure a trip to the state playoffs for the 11th consecutive season.
“When we’ve got everything clicking and we’re controlling the pace of the game, we’re a real unstoppable team,” Hawks guard DeNero Washington said. “But tonight we just couldn’t do it.”
Kingston, which gained a state-regional berth, gave the Hawks fits from wire to wire.
Brett Spencer drained a 3-pointer with seven minutes, six seconds to play in the first quarter to give Kingston a 3-2 lead.
The Hawks never regained it from there. For every quick run River Ridge put together, the Buccaneers answered.
“We knew because of their size and their speed and their athleticism that we had to move the ball,” Kingston coach Ben Wisniewski said. “When we started moving the ball, we started getting open looks and we got good shots.
“When you get good shots, you typically knock it down.”
The Bucs did all game long, scattering eight 3-pointers to hold off River Ridge.
“We really couldn’t get any rhythm,” Washington said.
“I think we just dug ourselves too big of a hole,” River Ridge coach John Barbee said. “They can shoot it.”
Spencer (18 points), Gabe Gregory (14) and Liam Young (12) all scored in double digits for the Bucs.
Following Spencer’s final 3-pointer, the Hawks scored four baskets in the final two minutes, but they weren’t enough.
“I think we got it going a little too late,” Barbee said.
Kingston shot 6 of 8 from the free-throw line to close the game.
Washington scored a team-high 14 points for River Ridge, while Jordan Skipper-Brown and Kelle Sanders each added 13.
River Ridge (16-8) will play Highline — a team it lost to twice this season — in a loser-out game at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Curtis.
“It’s hard to beat a team three times, so that’s in our favor,” Barbee said. “We’ve still got a chance. We still control our own destiny.”
“We’ve really got to have a fire burning in us Monday at practice,” Washington said.
Kingston 9 15 20 16_60
River Ridge 8 10 17 19_54
K – Chiquiti 9, Anderson 2, Shaw 5, Gregory 14, Spencer 18, Young 12
RR – Coleman 8, Skipper-Brown 13, Washington 14, Larson 2, Knox 2, Sanders 13, Kennedy 1