TREYNOR, Iowa — Ricky Williams thought about forcing the shot.
With Riverside's magical basketball season on the line, its 6-foot-7 senior leader got the ball in the post and immediately drew a double team. A packed gym at Treynor High School stood waiting for a Williams attempt as his team led Underwood by a single point late in the fourth quarter of the winner-take-all Iowa Class 1-A, District 14 final Friday night.
But Williams found Brady Ryun on the left wing instead. And the junior guard buried the shot.
Ryun's 3-pointer with three minutes remaining gave the No. 9 Bulldogs a 44-40 edge, and Riverside held off Underwood 46-43. It advances to face Villisca (22-4) in Saturday's Substate 7 final at 7 p.m. at Council Bluffs Abraham Lincoln High School.
“We were just running a normal play and ran it through perfectly,” Ryun said. “Had a wide-open shot — easy. It felt good the whole way.”
Williams finished with a game-high 24 points and 11 rebounds, but his late assist held off upset-minded Underwood down the stretch. The Eagles, down 41-40, were looking for their first lead since 19-18 in the second quarter before Riverside's only trey of the game fell through the net.
Mitch Forrester nailed a corner 3-pointer with 34 seconds left to draw Underwood back within 44-43, but Ryun converted a pair of free throws on the ensuing possession. The Eagles misfired on three potential game-tying shots during a mad scramble in the final moments.
Riverside coach Jason Shelangouski said the Bulldogs used to lose those kinds of games. Not this season.
“It shows our experience and our ability level,” Shelangouski said. “If we continue to play at our ability level, we're going to be in for more games.”
Riverside (23-1) is in a substate game and on the verge of state for the second time in three years. Oakland went to state in 1986, but the current program that also includes Carson and Macedonia has never been.
“Just get over the hump is what we've got to do,” Williams said. “It's going to be another tough battle, but it's going to be fun.
“We're some of the craziest kids you'll ever meet. I love this team.”
The Bulldogs had already beaten their Western Iowa Conference counterpart twice this season — 55-48 on Jan. 8 and 67-49 on Feb. 1. They got out to a 34-22 advantage midway through the third quarter on a Williams bank shot and appeared on the verge of another easy triumph.
But Underwood (14-10) answered with an 18-7 spurt before Ryun's long-range dagger. Forrester nailed two other 3s during the rally, and Ryan Spiegel poured in nine of his team-best 13 points.
“As far as our effort, this is the best one of the entire year,” Underwood coach Shawn Darrington said. “Every person that stepped on the floor laid it on the line, and that's all we can ask of them.”
The Eagles lose seniors Austin Asbra, Brady Johnson and Spiegel from a group that began the winter emphasizing transition basketball. They ended by holding their own in half-court sets and nearly pulling a big upset.
Riverside got plenty of contribution from its own upperclassmen as it moves to the brink of a state berth. Senior Ean Patrick netted 10 points on 5-of-6 shooting, Ryun finished with seven and three other Bulldogs also scored.
“We've gelled way better than we have in the past,” Ryun said. “This season we've come a long way with stepping our foot down and making sure the other team doesn't get by us.”
Riverside (23-1) ................. 8 16 15 7—46
Underwood (14-10) ................. 8 11 14 10—43
R: Malachi Dillon 0-2 1-2 1, Ean Patrick 5-6 0-0 10, Brady Ryun 2-6 2-2 7, Tanner Ford 0-1 0-0 0, David Andersen 1-3 0-0 2, Kyle Myers 1-1 0-0 2, Rick Williams 11-17 2-4 24, Garrett Graves 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 20-36 5-8 46.
U: Mitch Forrester 3-6 0-0 9, Brady Johnson 0-0 0-0 0, Austin Asbra 1-1 2-2 4, RJ Powell 0-6 0-0 0, Jake Starnes 4-7 0-0 8, Ryan Spiegel 5-11 3-4 13, Austin Konsor 3-11 3-6 9. Totals: 16-42 8-12 43.
3-point goals: R 1-7 (Dillon 0-1, Ryun 1-2, Ford 0-1, Andersen 0-1, Williams 0-1), U 3-16 (Forrester 3-5, Powell 0-5, Starnes 0-1, Spiegel 0-2, Konsor 0-3). Rebounds: R 22 (Williams 11), U 15 (Konsor 8). Turnovers: R 14, U 13. Total fouls: R 12, U 11. Fouled out: None.
CLASS 2-A, DISTRICT 13 FINAL AT RED OAK
Villisca 54, Sidney (Iowa) 44
Villisca avenged an early season, last-second loss to western Iowa Class 2-A/1-A No. 10 Sidney by making 22 free throws to the Cowboys' five.
Sidney (21-3) ................. 10 10 6 18—44
Villisca (22-4) ................. 14 11 12 14—54
S: Noah McKeever 14, Michael Coates 11, Chris Osborn 9, Jacob Cain 6, Nicholas Shipley 4.
V: Travis Herzberg 16, Max Mauderly 13, Damon Sunderman 12, Austin Sorensen 6, Colton Drake 4.