The Colonial Forge and Riverbend girls basketball teams are getting to know each other pretty well lately.

Wednesday night’s hard-fought 53-49 victory by the Bears was the two teams’ third meeting this season. There’s a good chance they could see each other again in the upcoming Region 6B playoffs in two weeks.

The Bears (16-5, 10-0, Commonwealth District) are currently ranked fourth, while the Eagles (16-7, 8-2) are No. 5.

“They’re a lot like us,” said Riverbend coach Wayne Via. “They go after what they want and they play hard as a team. We both had our big moments tonight. I think we showed a lot of heart at the end.”

Riverbend lost to the Eagles by eight points in the Commonwealth District tournament at the beginning of the season. But since that loss, the Bears have grown and learned their identity under Via. Wednesday’s victory showed just how far they’ve come.

After building a 34-25 lead at the intermission with a dominating performance on the boards and some timely 3-point shooting, they saw their lead slip away in the third quarter.

But like the veteran team they’ve become, they regained their composure and secured their 16th win in the closing minutes of the game.

“[Colonial Forge] is a good team,” said Riverbend guard Tianna Smith, who led the Bears with 17 points, along with backcourt mate Tekiya Cadden. “We really had to stick together and pick each other up in the third quarter.”

Both teams came out with a high level of energy in the first quarter. Smith drained a pair of 3-pointers in the final three minutes to help the Bears get even after Colonial Forge had taken the lead behind the play of Alexandra Sullivan and Cameren Downs. Sullivan was the Eagles’ top scorer with 17 points.

In the second quarter, the Bears’ hustling play on the perimeter and the inside work of Maddy Slunt and Madison Sarver fueled a 17-8 scoring run that put them in front by nine at the half. Slunt and Sarver each grabbed 11 rebounds to lead Riverbend to a 49-32 advantage on the glass.

Colonial Forge showed its mettle in the second half. Using a full-court press, the Eagles forced seven turnovers in the first five minutes of the third quarter and regained the lead with a 13-0 run. Alexandra Sullivan (17 points) and Keona Warmack were big factors in their success.

A three-point play by Smith at the end of the period got the Bears back in front (43-40), but clearly, the Eagles had taken back their momentum.

“Coach told us that we couldn’t let up and that they weren’t going to give the game to us,” said Smith. “We had to earn it in the second half.”

That’s exactly what the Bears did in the final minutes. With the score tied at 47 for nearly three minutes, Cadden and Smith both came up big.

Cadden scored on a driving layup in traffic, and then Smith broke free inside the lane for a basket to give them a 51-49 lead after Brayla Bogier had scored for the Eagles. Sarver then sealed the victory with a free throw with 18 seconds left.

“We got some really big plays at the end,” said Via. “This team has come a long way. We didn’t really know each other at the beginning of the season, but we settled in and got into kind of a groove.”

Colonial Forge coach Lashaun Cook liked the effort her team gave in its third meeting with the Bears and believes the Eagles will be ready for the playoffs.

“We have a lot of basketball left to play,” said Cook. “We just need to be able to put together a complete game. To dig ourselves out of the hole we were in tonight was pretty tough.”

Colonial Forge visits Mountain View on Friday. Riverbend entertains North Stafford on the same night.

Colonial Forge      178   159   —   49
Riverbend17   179   10   —53

Colonial Forge (16-7, 8-2): Nadia Capers 0, Zoe Alhanati 0, Alexandra Sullivan 17, Brayla Bogier 8, Keona Warmack 7, Cameren Downs 8, Jenna Grey 5, Tenia Brown 4. Totals: 18 10-10 49.

Riverbend (16-5, 10-0): Tekiya Cadden 17, Tianna Smith 17, Mikayla Via 0, Jasmin Williams 9, Madison Sarver 5, Maddy Slunt 7, Charlotte Patton 0, Sabrina Hunter 0. Totals: 20 8-18 53.

3-pointers: CF 3 (Sullivan, Warmack, Grey). Riverbend 5 (Cadden 2, Smith 2, Slunt).

Steve Franzello: 540/374-5440

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