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5-foot-2 Alexa Riveland ‘the heart’ of top-seeded Columbus Cougars

Posted at 6:10 PM, Mar 05, 2019

BILLINGS — Lindsey Hein, Forsyth’s 6-foot-5 center, is one of Class B’s most dominant players. No one has been able to stop her all year.

So when Columbus drew the Dogies in Saturday night’s Southern B girls basketball divisional championship, head coach Jeromey Burke had to figure out what to do. Naturally, he called on 5-2 point guard Alexa Riveland.

“People almost think it’s a gimmick, but it’s not,” said Burke. “I’ve never seen somebody that can play as hard as she does for as long as she does.”

Burke told Riveland to front Hein all night, trying to make Forsyth’s star as uncomfortable as possible, and it worked.

“(Riveland) took it to her,” Cougars guard Morgan Kirsh said. “I don’t think she knew what to do.”

“I understand she’s tiny compared to her, but her heart makes her play 6-5, and we know that,” Burke said. “It’s just something that for 32 minutes, having that girl hound you is just a nightmare.”

“Tallest girl on the court, so that was their main threat,” acknowledged Riveland. “For the most part, (the goal was) shutting her down, not letting her get the ball and making other people shoot. I think we did a pretty good job at that.”

Hein shot just 3 for 13 and Columbus held the Dogies to 34 total points in a 42-34 win to claim the divisional title – quite a turnaround for a team that hadn’t even reached the divisional tournament in four years.

“They got a pretty big monkey off their back in districts,” Burke said. “Truthfully, I believed in them more than they believed in themselves, and then that switch finally flipped: ‘I’m not crazy, you guys can do this.'”

“The three seniors on this team really took it upon ourselves to make sure that we were going to go as far as we could and make sure those younger girls could see that,” Riveland said. “I wanted to give them experience, and I wanted to be a part of it, so I don’t know what the switch was, but there it was.”

You could argue the switch was Riveland, who has been working toward this day for three seasons.

“We had some tough conversations with her her sophomore year,” Burke recalled. “She told us what her goals were, and we said you have to work harder. If you really want to be that, if you really want to lead this team, you have to work harder, and she did.”

“Being that small, girls underestimate her, and she comes out and shows them up,” Kirch said. “I’m proud of her. She worked really hard and we couldn’t have done it without her.”

Burke summed it up another way: “She’s just the heart of our team, and it showed.”

Big things really do come in small packages.