The Riverdale Kingsbridge Academy was holding a paper-thin, one-point lead at the end of the first quarter last Friday night vs. Bronx United, when Tigers’ head coach John Reingold and assistant Andy Brereton decided to change things up on the defensive end.
“In the second quarter we played three different defenses,” Brereton said. “We played a 2-3 [zone], a 3-2, and we also went man-to-man. We threw a lot of things at them, which threw them off center. At that point we started to get rebounds and we got some easy transition baskets, which at that point opened the game for us.”
“Opened the game for us” might be putting it mildly, as the Tigers used their stifling defense to score 24 unanswered points, while limiting Bronx United to just two points in the entire second quarter, as RKA blew open the game and cruised to a lopsided 64-41 victory at home.
The win ups the Tigers’ record to 11-2, as RKA now holds a four-game lead in the Bronx B1 Division, with just four regular season games to play.
“That was all she wrote, that second quarter,” Brereton said. “We didn’t give them time to settle in by changing defenses. We just got our rebounds and we’d go.”
The Tigers, who have won six of their last seven games, were holding a 14-13 lead after the first quarter when the bottom fell out on Bronx United thanks to RKA’s relentless defense. The Tigers 24-0 run began with a jumper by Jalen Cuello, who had 16 points in the win, and continued unabated for the next four and a half minutes with Will Feldman, Jaiden Lewis and Cuello combining for the next 20 straight points. By the time Bronx United managed its lone bucket of the quarter, which came with 2:59 remaining before the half, RKA’s lead had ballooned to 35-15 and there was little the Ravens could do to slow the RKA machine.
“We just ran the floor, got some breaks and scored,” said Lewis, who finished with 10 points in the win. “We had one of the best second quarters we’ve had all season.”
Feldman said both Reingold and Brereton warned the Tigers not to let up in the second half despite their comfortable 39-15 cushion at halftime.
“That 24-0 run definitely took the wind out of them,” said Feldman, who had a game-high 18 points. “But coach said at halftime, ‘Don’t get off the gas pedal.’ A team like that can always come back.”
There was no danger of that happening as the Tigers continued their dominance in the third quarter, when they allowed Bronx United to score just nine points as RKA’s lead swelled to 52-24 at the end of the third quarter.
“When we put our mind to it we can be a very good defensive team,” Feldman said. “I think that’s what we’re going to need going down the stretch.”
With just four games remaining in the regular season against teams with a combined record of 15-35, it should be smooth sailing for the Tigers to clinch the division title as soon as Friday when they visit Health Opportunities High School and its 6-7 record. The Tigers’ last three games will include contests against In-Tech Academy (3-9), American Studies (6-6) and the Academy for Language and Technology (0-13).
So, it’s safe to say Riverdale will be the home to the Bronx B1 champions sooner rather than later. If you don’t believe us, just ask Will Feldman.
“I think we’re playing our best ball right now,” Feldman said. “I really think we’re really starting to click.”