published Saturday, August 6th, 2011

Riverside-Howard rivalry renewed

During the 20 years of its existence, Riverside High School was known for basketball.

Richard Fuqua and Anthony Roberts were the biggest of many stars for the school that occupied the former Chattanooga High School building that now serves as the home of Arts & Sciences. Some of the rest of the former Trojans standouts will be playing this evening against NAIA All-American Gerald Cunningham and other alumni of Howard, their top rival.

Riverside won three state championships, two under Dorsey Sims and the third in 1972 with former Trojans point guard Leroy Alexander Jr. as head coach in his first year after ending his playing career with a conference title at Alabama State. Alexander's Trojans defeated coach Henry Bowles and Howard in the TSSAA final.

Those coaches will be squaring off again today in a game that will start about 5 p.m. in UTC's Maclellan Gymnasium. The irony is that Alexander is in his sixth year working at Howard, having been pulled back into education by former principal Elaine Swafford.

"This is bragging rights for a year, and I've got to have that. I work over there," said Alexander, who was a head coach at four colleges after leaving Riverside in 1976 and is in his third year directing the Chattanooga Magicians AAU boys' team, now 12-under.

The Magicians, who made remarkable progress from their first to their second season, provided halftime entertainment for Riverside's alumni game earlier this year, when Alexander played a little and scored seven points. He will just be coaching today, he said.

"It took two weeks for me to recover from what few minutes I played in that game," he said.

After that contest, someone suggested that the former Trojans should challenge Howard. The call was made, and Herman Prater was credited with much of the organizing from Howard's end, according to Alexander and Riverside reunion committee member Valerie Ford.

"I didn't even know Coach Bowles was coaching until I saw their roster," Alexander said.

"It's going to be very fun," said Ford, a 1981 Riverside graduate. "When we had the Riverside game, you couldn't see anything but smiles. This will be the same. It's going to give people a chance to see people they haven't seen in 30 years. A lot of people are coming from out of town."

Alexander further noted that "this will give the younger generation a chance to see these guys they've heard about."

Today's event starts at 3:30 p.m. with autographs and photos, followed by former Riverside girls' players displaying their shooting skills and leading a brief clinic for boys and girls ages 6-12.

Money from the $10 admission donations will go to Riverside's all-classes (1963-82) reunion in November and a scholarship fund, Ford said. Howard will get the proceeds from a planned rematch next year.

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