Photo by Jerry Jackson
Riverdale will look to Deanna Turner to help with scoring when the Lady Raiders take on No. 7 Woodland tonight in the Region 4-AAAA tournament semifinals.
JONESBORO — Can anybody stop Woodland?
As McIntosh raises its hand, the Riverdale Lady Raiders are preparing to step up and provide their answer to that question in Friday’s Region 4-AAAA tournament semifinal at Woodland High.
Since both teams have already qualified for the state tournament, on the surface, the next two games seem to just be for tournament seeding and region bragging rights.
But beneath the surface, more is on the line. Woodland is in the midst of the longest winning streak — 23 games — in school history. Ranked No. 7 in Class AAAA by MaxPreps, the Lady Wolfpack’s only blemish was a 44-32 setback in the season’s second game to the aforementioned Lady Chieftains.
Since then, Woodland has been on a roll under first-year coach Ashley Maddox, and at times have looked downright invincible. The Wolfpack won it’s last six games of the regular season by an average margin of victory of 39.5 points. That was before its dismantling of North Clayton in the opening round of the region tournament.
Enter Riverdale, who under first-year coach Jacquesa Smith, has exceeded many expectations with her Lady Raiders. Smith has guided Riverdale to its first winning season since the 2009-10 state tournament squad. And she’s done it largely with freshman and inexperienced players in her team’s core.
Freshmen like Angel Cooper and Briona Andrews have added to the experience of post players Sequoia Nelson and DeAnna Turner to give Riverdale a very athletic starting five.
“They are finally starting to get it,” Smith said of her young players. “Eventually we were going to need those sophomores and freshman to step up and they have begun to do so.”
But it will most likely take even more to knock off a Woodland squad that seems determined to best last season’s 21-10 finish. The Lady Wolfpack’s season came to a halt in a 59-38 loss to Jonesboro in the first round of the state playoffs.
The winner of tonight’s game could will face the winner of the Jonesboro-Griffin game Saturday to decide the region tournament championship.