By ANDY WOLF
MOUNT BLANCHARD — The celebration started a few seconds before the final buzzer went off.
Hard to blame an eager Riverdale boys basketball team, which hadn’t celebrated a league title in 46 years.
Senior Logan Frey dribbled out the final half minute in front of his own bench, letting the home crowd soak in the moment as the Falcons defeated Van Buren 58-43 to clinch at least a share of the Blanchard Valley Conference championship.
“It’s an unbelievable feeling,” Riverdale head coach Craig Taylor said. “It’s a great feeling for those kids out there.
“They’ve come in, the six seniors have busted their tails since even elementary. They gave everything to this program and it’s amazing to see them rewarded like that, cutting the nets down. They deserve it.
“I’m a small piece of dust in what those kids accomplished tonight.”
The Falcons, who started five seniors, improved to 15-8 overall and completed BVC play at 9-1. Riverdale’s last league title came in the North Central Conference in 1974.
Arlington (16-4, 8-1) is also still in the BVC title hunt and can clinch a share if it beats Leipsic on Thursday at home.
Van Buren, the defending outright BVC champs, fell to 10-9, 6-3.
Frey’s 20 points were a game high to go with his two rebounds, seven assists and four steals.
Coby Miller knocked in three 3-pointers en route to 15 points and also chalked up three steals.
Brock Davis and Max Morris added six and five points, respectively and three steals apiece. Trysten Mix, the fifth senior starter, led with five rebounds.
“We’ve been working for this for 14 years,” Miller said. “To be the first team to do this in 46 years is really something special.”
“(Coby) said it, really,” Frey said, adding on. “We busted our butts all year. We got even closer and closer and got more nerve-wracking than anything else. For us to come out and play how we did, really well, I’m just glad we got that win overall.”
For as strong as the Falcons finished, outscoring the Black Knights 29-15 in the second half, the first half was a physical grind.
Riverdale built leads of six and five points in each of the first two quarters, only to have Van Buren come right back each time.
The Black Knights snatched their first lead at 28-26 off Nick McCracken’s coast-to-coast steal.
After Frey split a pair at the line, Van Buren milked clock to set up a final shot.
However, Davis intercepted a pass in traffic on the right wing and quickly dished to a streaking Frey ahead of the defense.
Frey finished the lay-in at the buzzer through hard contact to the floor — erupting the Falcon faithful.
“It got us pumped up, too,” Frey said. “My first half wasn’t good defensively.
“We all worked together in the second half, picked it up and it got us all going. We came out to play, all of us.”
Van Buren coach Tyler Niekamp felt the momentum change, too.
“The way the half ended, I feel it was indicative of how the whole game went for us offensively,” Niekamp said. “We were out of sync a little bit and I give (Riverdale) credit for pressuring the ball really tough and playing good defense.”
Riverdale opened the third quarter on a 9-2 run and never looked back. Miller’s 3-pointer capped the run — prompting a timeout by Niekamp.
The Black Knights struggled to find their shot, hitting just 6 of 23 from the floor in the second half, including 1 of 10 from downtown and 1 of 8 in the fourth quarter.
Caden Lance’s 16 points led Van Buren. McCracken added 12 points and three steals.
Van Buren also committed 16 turnovers.
“We’ve been preaching defense all week,” Miller said. “That’s all we’ve worked on is keeping them in front, playing team defense and that’s what we came out and did.”
Taylor said he tried to downplay the week as much as he could.
He was the last up the ladder to finish off cutting down the net and led a chant of “Blue pride” from the top.
“It’s sweet to do it in front of the home crowd, amazing support all year. (I) appreciate Falcon nation,” Taylor said.
While the feelings are all positive, there’s a mixed consensus on if it’s really set in our not.
“It doesn’t feel real but I’m sure it will set in sometime,” Miller said.
“Oh, it set in in the last minute (of the game) with me,” Frey said. “It’s insane.”
VAN BUREN (10-9, 6-3 BVC)
Lance 7-0–16, McCracken 5-2–12, Warren 0-0–0, Kramer 3-2–9, Clark 0-0–0, Schroeder 1-0–3, Durliat 0-0–0, Miller 1-0–3. TOTALS: 17-43 4-7 — 43.
RIVERDALE (15-6, 9-1 BVC)
Morris 2-1–5, Miller 4-4–15, L. Frey 5-10–20, Mix 1-0–2, Davis 3-0–6, Holland 5-0–10, Kuenzli 0-0–0. TOTALS: 20-37 15-22 — 58.
Van Buren 10 18 7 8 — 43
Riverdale 12 17 14 15 — 58
3-Point GOALS: Van Buren 5-17 (Lance 2, Miller, Schroeder & Kramer); Riverdale 3-12 (Miller 3).
rebounds: Van Buren 24 (Schroeder 6); Riverdale 27 (Mix 5).
turnovers: Van Buren 16; Riverdale 11.
junior varsity: Riverdale, 56-39.