BYESVILLE - There will be no three-peat in Ohio Division IV boys' basketball this season.
River made sure of that Saturday afternoon by dethroning two-time defending state champion Hiland, 56-49, in an overtime District Championship Game thriller before a packed house at Meadowbrook High School.
The victory - the Pilots' 19th in 26 decisions - gives the Monroe County school its third trip to the regionals, but first since back-to-back trips in 1988-89 under the legendary R.L. Potts.
River’s Matt Marconi heads to the basket Saturday against Hiland.
River will face upstart Youngstown Christian, the No. 8 seed in the Struthers District, on Tuesday night at 6:15 inside the Canton Memorial Fieldhouse. The Eagles defeated Wellsville on Friday night.
"This is just great," River coach Mark Romick said. "It's great for the kids. It's great for our fans. We had a great turnout. We're going to the regional."
Thirty-two minutes couldn't decide the tussle as the teams were deadlocked at 48. However, the free-throw stripe proved to be beneficial to River as District 12 Player of the Year Brett Price put the finishing touches on perhaps his best game in a Pilots' uniform.
The senior drained all six of his attempts to push his game-high point total to 31.
However, it was the last of his five assists that led to the lone field goal of the extra five-minute session, and proved to be the dagger that the Hawks wouldn't recover from.
Trapped along his own baseline with time running down and facing a 10-second call, Price knew someone had to be open.
"I turned around and saw four black jerseys around me," he said. "I knew someone was open and I just saw Cody all alone at the other end of the court."
Flinging the ball with all his might, it took two bounces to reach the awaiting Caldwell, who sunk it off the glass for a 54-48 advantage with a 37 seconds left.
Both teams had chances in the waning seconds of regulation, but River missed a shot with 10 ticks showing, but, after a Hiland timeout, the Hawks threw the ball away with 3.4 on the clock, but Price's desperation heave from near midcourt was off the mark, giving the huge crowd some bonus basketball.
Caldwell scored nine points, while Jordan Indermuhle added seven markers and 10 boards. Evan Eggleston, another senior, had four huge points off the bench.
"Everyone contributed in one way or another," Romick said. "That's what we need."
Todd Ropp, the only Hawks player to see playing time on the back-to-back state championship squads, poured in 22 points and hauled down nine rebounds. Jordan Yoder added 11 points.
River had 13 turnovers, but six of those came in the first quarter. Hiland finished with 16, with 11 of those coming at the halftime break.