Riffle Grows Into Falcons Leadership Role

'Dominant' Center Breaks School Mark With 40-point Game

February 02, 1992|By Roch Eric Kubatko | Roch Eric Kubatko,Staff writer

Wayne Mook didn't bother looking at his score book after last Friday's boys basketball game against Southern. His Severna Park team had lost its second straight, the third in its last four, and the veteran coach had seen enough for one night.

Or so he thought.

"My assistant said, 'Yeah, Rich (Riffle) probably had around 25 points.' I looked at the score book and saw 40. I never realized," he said.

What Mook discovered was that the Severna Park record for points in one game, 37 by Mark Cook during the 1980s, had been eclipsed.

And by a player who only three years ago was riding the bench with his junior high school team in West Virginia.

Riffle, a 6-foot-5 center, was a surprise addition to the Falcons' varsity after transferring to Severna Park last season -- surprising to himself.

"It was different because I never really played where I used to live," hesaid. "I came here and picked up on it, but I didn't think I'd make the team."

Now, he's grown into what Mook called "our most dominant inside player offensively," ranking third in the county in scoring at nearly 20 points a game.

"Going into the season, we were relying on him heavily to score inside for us, and also being able to stop the other team's big man," Mook said. "And in terms of leadership, he's counted on heavily to get everybody ready to play."

But in typically quiet fashion.

"He lets his actions speak for themselves," Mook said. "He's not a rah-rah type of kid, but he's a kid who will goout and work hard and when good things happen, everyone else sees that and says, 'Gee, the hard work is rewarding.' "

His greatest reward came last Friday.

Mook had Riffle playing away from the basketfor most of the first half, and the 185-pound center responded with a couple of three-pointers.

But that strategy changed in the second half, when Mook realized the Bulldogs were "giving us the inside."

"And Rich took it."

Riffle scored 18 points in the fourth quarter, attempting every Falcon shot but one. "If it's working, keep going to it," Mook said.

"They were doing a real good job getting me the ball," said Riffle, who also had six rebounds, five blocks and twoassists. "And coming off that screen left me open just about every time."

Teammate Scott Brown, a senior guard who led the Falcons in scoring last season, said, "He has a designated spot to come down on the low block, and if he's open, it's my job to get him the ball. Andhe's got this turnaround 'J' that's just about money every time. It was working all night for us."

About the only part of Riffle's game that isn't working more effectively than last season is his rebounding, down from 11 to seven a game. But this isn't entirely his fault.

Severna Park entered last week as the third-highest scoring team in the Baltimore metro area, and as Mook said, "If you're picking up a lot of rebounds, that means you're missing a lot of shots. We're not missing a lot.

"He's not going to get a lot of offensive rebounds, but defensively, he's fine. He's doing the job."

That is, when sophomore Ron Green isn't grabbing every miss. Labeled "a Wes Unseld-type" as a freshman by Mook, Green leads the team in rebounding with over 10 a game.

And none of this is any great concern to Riffle, who said, "As long as we keep winning, it doesn't really matter if I score or rebound. The 'W' is what counts."

Severna Park has collected plenty of those -- 10 going into Friday night's game at South River. The Falcons won their first eight games before one-point losses toMeade and Glen Burnie.

They're hoping to return to the 4A Region IV playoffs, where they were eliminated by Meade in the quarterfinalslast year. Riffle had 11 points in that game, after scoring 18 against the Mustangs in the regular-season finale.

Then came a summer of more basketball. He took part in the Nike Blue-Chip Shootout at American University and a Five-Star Camp in Pennsylvania, and led his Flying Admirals to the championship of the county Recreation and Parks Department's Boys Summer League at Lake Waterford Park, scoring a game-high 24 points in the final.

"The summer league kept me in shape," Riffle said, "and I got to work on my skills a little bit more because I got the ball and got to do my own thing."

"The big thing with him, is he plays all the time," Mook said. "Traditionally, we get kids who are football, lacrosse or baseball. Well, he's a kid who plays basketball -- that's it.

"One of the most difficult things we have at this high school is getting kids committed to playing basketball year-round. At Annapolis, you know they're playing year-round. At Severna Park, there are too many other distractions. He's not distracted."

Opposing coaches have found it hard to focus on Riffle without paying a heavy price.

"If you go double-teaming him in the low post, you're going to let Scott Brown, our leading scorer last year, shoot it? I wouldn't do that," Mook said. "It creates difficulties for a defense trying to shut him down.

"The thing that impresses me the most about Rich is that he has no fear for whoever he plays. He respects everybody he plays, but he's not intimidated by anybody, and I think that has transpired into his offensive output this year. He just walks on the floor and says, 'Hey, you've got to shut me down.'

"So far, teams have not been real successful."

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