When the Crusaders created a turnover, which was often, they would immediately push the ball upcourt and look for baskets in transition. It’s an entertaining brand of basketball, one that requires plenty of energy. And in a 76-59 home win, Riverdale Baptist never seemed to tire.
“We’re at our best when we’re constantly running — sharing the ball, running fast breaks,” senior guard Kaylah Ivey said. “Slower-paced doesn’t work for us.”
At this point in her senior season, Ivey doesn’t need to hear Coach Mike Bozeman’s voice telling her to push it once she gets the ball in her hands. That directive is already there, in the back of her mind, as the Crusaders have built their recent success on a breakneck pace and impressive depth.
“Everyone stays hungry,” Bozeman said. “In order to get more minutes, you can’t come out there and slack. . . . That’s how we maintain it. And that’s what we count on when we go on the road and play those tough games.”
Riverdale’s style can sometimes come into conflict with its national schedule. Last season, the program played 39 games. That’s much more than the average area team, but it’s a fairly normal number for the Crusaders (15-3) and the Eagles (13-6).
Each program prides itself on an uber-competitive schedule; the teams travel far and wide to find respectable opponents. Over the past two months, the teams have gone to Raleigh, N.C.; Phoenix; Philadelphia; and Richmond, among other destinations. In that time, they had dropped just one game apiece to a local opponent.
For Riverdale, maintaining the energy level its style requires can be a challenge. When the team is on the road, it’s all about getting the right amount of rest.
“Rest, whenever we can, is very important,” Ivey said. “Knowing our schedule is how it is and the type of opponents we play, we can’t take a game off. Taking the time to rest is the key to being able to play like this every game.”
And when they’re at home, the key is sometimes as simple as finding a rhythm. National Christian outplayed the Crusaders in the first quarter, but Riverdale grew more comfortable in the second and ran right past the Eagles in the third.
“We always just want to see hard work out there,” senior guard Elizabeth Martino said. “Sometimes we can get lackadaisical, and that just doesn’t work with how we play.”