Rebels stifle Celeste with suffocating defense, overwhelm Blue Devils in 56-28 third-round win
The No. 5 Rivercrest Rebels continue to impress with their dominant run through the 2021 UIL Basketball Playoffs. At Greenville High School on Friday night, the Rebels used their suffocating defense and fast-paced offense to earn their third consecutive blowout win in a row by doubling up the Celeste Blue Devils 56-28 in the Regional Quarterfinals.
The Rebels already recorded an 83-47 win over the Cooper Bulldogs in the Bi-District Round followed by a 64-30 victory over the Honey Grove Warriors in the Area Round. The Rebels’ latest dominant performance was also fueled by their defense, which frustrated Celeste early and often.
“We played extremely well on defense. We just ran a zone like we have most of the year but mixed in some man defense,” Rebels head basketball coach Quincy English said. “I figured this would be our best option considering how good they looked running it against Honey Grove, and I know Celeste is a lot better than Honey Grove, but I figured if they ran it that well against them then they would do it well enough to win here, and they did. It’s all about the kids with this. We’ve been running this defense since I’ve been here, it’s nothing new, but it’s all about the kids and what they put into it.”
Communication is key and it was paramount in Rivercrest’s effort in holding Celeste to a season-low 28 points.
“With our zone, we communicate by telling each other who is well and how we can beat our guy to each spot,” Rebels senior guard Zachariah Lane said. “We have to communicate well all the time — we have to.”
Former NBA legend Allen Iverson did not put too much stock or energy into practicing before games, but the Rebels’ views contrast Iverson’s to say the least.
“Playing the game shows how we practice, which is hard and fast,” Lane said. “We push the ball every time we can get it and set screens for each other to open up scoring opportunities.”
“This whole week has been hard and, I think I speak for all of us, when I say we hated practice this week,” Rivercrest senior guard Bradyn English said. “The coaches were on us the whole time saying, ‘If you don’t do things perfectly, Celeste is going to come in and beat y’all.’ We knew they were going to press — it’s their biggest strength and how they make people turn the ball over that turns into easy layups for them. We handled the press out here really well in this game. We had a couple early turnovers, but we did a good job of settling in and rolling from there.”
As for the game itself, things started out neck-and-neck with the first quarter ending deadlocked at 7-all. However, Rivercrest came alive on both ends of the court from the second quarter onward. Rivercrest opened the second stanza on a 12-2 run to push the lead to 19-9, which came at the 4:30 mark after a floater from Bradyn English. Impressively, Rivercrest never surrendered its double-digit advantage the rest of the way.
“I’m pleased with the way they’re playing, but I’m even more proud of them,” Quincy English said. “We have six seniors and four of them have been around us since little dribblers time, so those kids know what they want. We set a goal in junior high to win a state championship one day, they’ve stayed focused, and they’ve got a shot.”
Rivercrest held a 26-13 advantage over the reeling Blue Devils at the half and the domination continued in the second half. The Rebels’ defense proved too overwhelming as the local snow flurries from the recent past turned into Celeste turnover flurries. The machine that is the Rivercrest basketball team, like Rome, was not built in a day making each accomplishment that much more special.
“It feels so amazing. A lot of us have been playing together since first grade to now with six seniors on the team, so this is a humbling feeling for us,” Bradyn English said. “We know that we came together from first grade and we came together as a team to make it all the way here. It’s an amazing feeling and I’m really proud of all of our guys.”
A surgical 8-2 run put Rivercrest in full control of the game with a 46-24 lead with 5:31 left in the fourth after a layup from junior post player Darrion Ricks. In the end, the large lead held up in the Rebels’ 28-point third-round victory.
Bradyn English led the Rebels with 22 points while Lane scored 12 points. Kamryn English and Ricks chipped in with 8 points apiece while John Grider had 4 points. Eli Bivins also contributed with 2 points. Jawonte Stephens led Celeste with 10 points.
The best is yet to come
While the present is bright the future might be even brighter for the Rebels, who are taking full advantage of their playoff run in more ways than one.
“We are sad about the seniors who will be leaving us but they’ve been great for the younger kids. They’ve built this thing back up to where it’s supposed to be,” Quincy English said. “We have three juniors coming back to lead the way after learning from the seniors, we have a group of sophomores that are pretty good, and we have a couple of freshmen who are pretty good. The great thing about winning playoff games is the more games you win, the more practice you get, and the more practice you get now, the better you get for next year. Winning is great but all the extra practice we’re getting along the way is great for the program.”
The Rebels (24-2, 11-2) will compete in the Regional Semifinals against the Cisco Loboes at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Denton Ryan High School. Online sales have been limited to 600 total tickets available, which can be purchased for $5 by clicking here. For more sports coverage, click here.
TEAM Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4 F
Rivercrest 7 19 12 18 56
Celeste 7 6 9 6 28
Rivercrest scorers: B. English, 22; Lane, 12; K. English, 8; Ricks, 8; Grider, 4; Bivins, 2
Celeste scorers: J. Stephens, 10; Q. Stephens, 8; Crook, 6; Drennon, 2; Powell, 2
Rivercrest FGM: B. English, 8; Lane, 5; Ricks, 4; K. English, 3; Grider, 2; Bivins, 1
Celeste FGM: J. Stephens, 4; Crook, 2; Q. Stephens, 2; Drennon, 1; Powell, 1
Rivercrest 3PFGM: B. English, 2; K. English, 1
Celeste 3PFGM: Q. Stephens, 2
Rivercrest FT: 7-11; B. English, 4-7; Lane, 2-4; K. English, 1-1
Celeste FT: 6-12; Crook, 2-4; J. Stephens, 2-4; Q. Stephens, 2-4