South Bend Riley still improving as they prepare for Semi-State
South Bend Riley is a confident team, heading into it's 4A Semi-State game this Saturday against Carmel.
"Our confidence is through the roof," admits junior Gabe Johnson.
"I think we can reach another level," adds senior Damezi Anderson.
"We haven't reached our full potential yet."
And that's perhaps the most exciting thing about the South Bend Riley boys basketball team, as they enter the semi-state.
At 26-0, they think they can still be better!
"They're always pretty confident," says first year Riley head coach Eric Brand. "Sometimes I've got to bring them down a little bit. "
"We're a confident group. And a lot of it comes from what we've done. They have confidence in the team. As much as they have it in themselves, they have confidence in each other.."
That confidence has only grown over the last two weeks, as Riley has made its march through the state tournament.
After flying through the regular season, with relative ease the Wildcats have been tested more than once in the post-season.
But every time they've been challenged, whether in the sectional semifinal by Penn, a game they trailed at halftime, or the regional final against Elkhart Memorial this past weekend, another game in which the Wildcats were down at halftime, Riley has been able to dig in when it matters most and exert its dominance.
"It's been the same kind of process. Teams will make shots the first couple quarters, but we wear teams down at the end of the game," Johnson says.
"That's why we condition so much and work so hard in practice every single day."
It helps that the Wildcats are balanced. All-State forward Damezi Anderson usually leads the way, but he's surrounded by an extremely talented cast. Riley had eight different players score 7 points or more in the regional final.
"We've got some grit," Brand says. "We didn't play exceptional in either game (in the regional), but we had different guys step up. "
"We have so many guys that on any given night can make an impact, it's hard to prepare for us."
The Wildcats have made it to the Final Four, despite not playing what they would consider a complete game.
Imagine what it would look like, if they put it all together in the Semi-State.
"Its gonna be nasty," says Anderson, who became the all-time leading scorer in St. Joseph County history (1,943 career points) during the regional, surpassing the mark set by Marian's Demetrius Jackson in 2013.
"We're athletic. We can run. Everybody on the team can score, so I think it will be something amazing that nobody has seen in the State of Indiana."
And exactly what the Wildcats need, to call themselves state champs.