WILLIAMSTON – A very young energetic Tarboro Vikings basketball team opened their season with a tough 81-73 loss to the Riverside Knights Tuesday in Williamston. The Vikings have only two players who have any varsity experience and the rest are new comers. Tarboro was led by senior Kelvin Jones, who scored 30 points, and Maliek Hudson who chipped in 14.
"It wasn't a bad showing for these young group of guys we have on the varsity right now," Tarboro head coach Craig Savage said. "We are expecting a lot out of some of these young guys and it will just take time for us to get to that level of play."
Tarboro is playing without a lot of experienced players, because they will have at least seven players coming from the football team once their season is finished.
Tarboro started out sluggish in the first half, but regrouped after an early timeout by Savage. Hudson led the way in the first quarter, scoring 6 points in the quarter, but Tarboro trailed 15-8 after one quarter.
In the second quarter, the Vikings bounced back and began to play liked Savage had expected them to from the beginning. They went on an 8-4 run to begin the second quarter, but Riverside took the momentum back and scored two straight baskets off of Tarboro turnovers. With 3:36 left before halftime, Jones began to heat up for the Vikings. He hit two free throws and then on the next possession he hit a three pointer from the right wing to cut the Riverside lead to 29-25. After two baskets by Knight's forward Mario Moore, Vikings sophomore Markese Clapp drained a three pointer from the baseline with 52 seconds left before halftime. Riverside guard Chuck Bether scored with 15 seconds left and gave the Knights a 33-28 lead at halftime.
Tarboro struggled early in the game and gave up 12 second chance points and turned the ball over 12 times.
Savage told his team to keep fighting at halftime, because he was rather pleased with the effort they were giving, especially with the difference in the height advantage that Riverside possessed.
Jones came out fired up in the third quarter and began to put the team on his back. He hit two straight baskets to start the quarter for the Vikings and they cut the Knights' lead to two at 35-33. After a basket by freshman Tyler Dozier inside the paint and a layup by Hudson, the Vikings had tied the contest at 37-37 with 5:48 left in the third. Riverside put a mini run together and scored on two consecutive Viking turnovers, but Tarboro mounted a comeback. Another basket by Hudson and a three by Jones helped cut back into the Knight lead. With 1:41 left in the third, the Knights began to pull away from the Vikings after Bether and Knight forward Daniel Everett scored five straight points. Clapp closed out the quarter with a layup at the buzzer and Tarboro trailed 54-48.
Tarboro began to tire defensively and were called for fouls on five straight possessions, which gave the Knights the advantage and helped them open up a 10 point lead with 5:32 left at 65-55. Jones and Clapp added baskets on the next two Viking possessions, but the Knights were outworking Tarboro on the boards. Riverside scored on three straight possessions after missing their first shots, they scored on the second and third chance opportunities. Riverside pulled away from the Vikings late in the fourth quarter, but Hudson and Jones would add a couple baskets apiece for Tarboro, but they fell short in their comeback.
"We got frustrated late in the game and acted like we had given up," Savage said. "I told the guys not to give up, that good teams would make runs, but we had to play with them. We just can't continue to trade baskets and we need to play better defense."
Tarboro committed 24 turnovers in the game, which helped the Knights capitalize with 22 points off of the turnovers. Tarboro shot 13-19 from the charity stripe.
"They manhandled us on the boards the entire game and we have to find a way to get tougher underneath," Savage said. "We have to do something to prepare them to get tougher under the boards. We made it to easy for them to score on second chance points. We can't get pushed around like that all season or it will be a long year."
Savage was pleased with the way the freshman and sophomores presented themselves on the court with their hustle and effort, especially Clapp.
"Markese is an athlete and I expect good things from him," Savage said. "He will help our program, because he knows how to play the game in tough spots."
Clapp finished the game with 10 points and 8 rebounds.
Lady Knights 39
Lady Vikings 35
Missing a lot of easy baskets and making too many passes were the Lady Vikings downfall against the Lady Knights Tuesday night in their season opener. Riverside defeated Tarboro 39-35 in what was good comeback effort by Tarboro late in the game after trailing by more then 13 points to start the fourth quarter.
Lady Vikings head coach Jamie Willoughby thinks the problem may have been first game jitters or either her team was rushing things a little too much, but she was proud of her team for continuing to play hard and making a comeback.
Willoughby believes that there is something different in her team this year, because she said last year her team would have laid down and quit after trailing by double digits. She is hoping it is a sign of maturity and experience of this years team.
Viking junior Lisa Jones and A'jah Williams led the way for the Vikings. They scored nine points apiece, while Nyasha Savage and Jerricka Shaw both added seven apiece.
The big story was senior Kharlil Perry. She was held scoreless in the game and was having trouble with her knee that she experienced problems with last year. Perry is wearing a knee brace this year that gives her knee support, but it broke early in the first half and she played limited minutes.
Tarboro trailed 7-4 after one quarter. Williams and Shaw each had a basket apiece for the Vikings in the quarter, but Tarboro turned ball over nine times and forced Riverside to turn it over eight.
In the second quarter, Riverside opened up a six point lead before the Vikings bounced back. Savage hit two free throws and Williams scored off of a Perry assist with 4:06 left before halftime to cut the Knights' lead to 14-10. Jones then hit one of two free throws and then Williams converted a layup, but Knight guard Jaly Brown scored with 16 seconds left before halftime to give Riverside the 16-13 edge at the half.
The Knights scored two quick baskets to start the third quarter. Tarboro then missed 5 of 6 free throws in a row and trailed 21-14 with 4:40 left in the third. Riverside then went on an 8-4 run to close out the quarter to take a 29-18 lead into the fourth quarter.
The Knights scored a quick basket to start the fourth and then Shaw connected on two consecutive possessions followed by a Quadasha Ruffin free throw. Tarboro trailed 31-23 with 5:28 left. Riverside then scored two straight baskets off of Tarboro turnovers before Jones tried to put the game on her back. She scored five straight points for the Vikings, then Savage hit a three pointer from the right wing to cut the Knights lead to 35-31 before Riverside was forced to call a timeout.
Coming out of the timeout with 2:39 left to play, Tarboro forced a Knights turnover and Jones then hit one of two free throws, Williams followed by hitting one of two free throws to cut the lead to two at 35-33 with 2:20 left. Brown hit two layups for the Knights and with 1:30 left Savage answered back with a jumper to cut the Knights lead to 39-35, but Tarboro couldn't convert on their next two possessions and Riverside sealed the win.
Tarboro turned the ball over 31 times and force Riverside to turn it over 29 times. Riverside took advantage of the Viking miscues and converted the Viking turnovers into more points then Tarboro took advantage of.
Tarboro was 10 of 21 from the free throw line and Riverside was 7 of 14.
Willoughby said her team just needs to be consistent and needs to work on finishing shots.
"The biggest difference was, we shot terrible from the free throw line and if we would have made more of them the game would have had a different outcome," Willoughby said. "We have to make more of our free throws."