MARION — Tabor Academy boys basketball has closed the gap. Now it has to make the leap.

The Seawolves, featuring their All-SouthCoast backcourt of Noah Fernandes and Chris Herren Jr., couldn’t halt The Rivers School’s winning streak, which rose to 13 games, in an intense 84-78 loss on Wednesday afternoon in a raucous Stone Gymnasium.

“We grinded and battled and played really, really hard, but tonight we did it for 29 minutes and you need to do it for 32 minutes,” Tabor coach Chris Millette said. “I never question how hard we play when the game is on the line. We have very competitive kids.”

The game proved Tabor is climbing the ladder of the Independent School League, but hasn’t quite reached the top rung, where schools like Rivers and Brooks reside.

“I think we’ve grown,” Fernandes said. “We’re getting to the heat of our schedule. It’s opened our eyes to how much harder we have to work as a team against the good teams. We have to stay together.”

The 6-foot-1 Fernandes scored 23 of his game-high 27 points after the break, but none were bigger than a pair of 3-pointers he hit in the final 31 seconds that helped Tabor nearly erase a seven-point deficit. But Rivers’ size on the boards meant even when it missed free throws down the stretch, the Seawolves couldn’t secure rebounds, allowing Rivers to score the game’s final five points at the line thanks to a series of offensive fouls.

“That was killer,” Millette said. “Those are every coaches’ pet peeves. That’s it for me. You have to get that ball.”

After C.J. Redd put back a rebound off his own free throw to make it 79-78 with 6.1 seconds left, Tabor was called for an intentional foul — it was, of course, intentional, but appeared to be a routine end-of-game foul — and a technical on Millette gave Rivers four chances from the line, and they converted three of them.

Fernandes, who led Old Rochester to a state championship as a freshman and is now a junior after repeating his freshman season, started heating up early in the second half, at one point scoring seven straight Tabor points on a selection of twisting layups, pull-up jumpers and knock-down 3-pointers.

“I’m just out here playing to win,” said Fernandes, who is averaging about 20 points a game this season. “I felt we needed a spark at that time. I was trying to get the win for the team. That’s how I play, I’m always intense. I feel like my energy reflects on the team. When I’m up and hyped, the team gets up and hyped.”

Fernandes ended up scoring 11 of the Seawolves’ final 14 points and finished with three steals, two rebounds and two assists on 11-of-19 shooting (4-of-9 from deep).

“I think he’s done a better job this year of being a point guard,” Millette said. “When he came out he was trying to get everyone involved and they kept switching who was on him. They had a good strategy defensively. He obviously stepped up in the second half.”

After Fernandes hit his second 3-pointer of the game with 1:25 to go to pull Tabor within 70-67, he finished an acrobatic layup with 1:02 left to get the score back within three. But after back-to-back fastbreak dunks from Rivers freshman Terrence Clarke — who has offers from UConn, Georgia Tech and URI — with 40 seconds left, it appeared the Seawolves were done. That’s when Fernandes hit a pair of triples just eight seconds apart.

“I have all the confidence in the world in him,” said Herren Jr., who is averaging about 25 points a game this season. “We all do. We know what he can do. … We know how to fight back. We’re a bunch of competitors. Being down doesn’t mean anything to us.”

The first half — which featured 12 lead changes and four ties and ended with Rivers up by two — was when Herren Jr. shined, scoring eight of his 14 points. Over the course of the game, he added five rebounds, three assists, two steals and a block while hitting 5-of-13 shots, including 3-of-7 from behind the arc.

“In the first half, they were a little more keyed in on me and Chris had a good half,” Fernandes said. “Then they keyed on him. I was just playing the game, within myself and playing to win.”

Fernandes and Herren Jr. have been playing together for a year-and-a-half now, and even train together in the summer with Brian Doyle and Nick Correia. They say that time has improved their chemistry this season.

“We both sort of know what we want and where we want the ball and when we want the ball,” Fernandes said. “We both have picked it up on both ends. Chris has really picked up his defense. He’s guarded a lot of top guys. He got in the gym a lot this offseason and came back very strong.”

“They’ve made really great progress playing together,” Millette added. “They take a lot of pride in finding each other and driving and kicking. They both draw so much attention. When they penetrate there’s five guys in the paint. I feel like they celebrate harder when one kicks it to the other. I think we’re fortunate. I’m aware of how fortunate we are to have those two guys.”

WHAT IT MEANS: The Rivers School wins its 13th straight and improves to 14-1. It is battling the Brooks School for the top spot in the Independent School League. … Tabor falls to 8-4 as it looks to stay near the top of the ISL. The Seawolves started the season 5-0 before hitting the meat of its schedule and has dropped games to Rivers, Choate Rosemary (63-51), Brooks (57-50) and St. Andrew’s (86-83 on Friday). “Those four losses are to big-time teams,” Millette said. “I think we were their toughest game of the year. I think our schedule is tough. There’s some really good teams in the ISL.

SURROUNDED BY TALENT: The biggest difference between Tabor’s squad this year and last is the improved talent around their star-studded backcourt. C.J. Redd, from Peekskill, New York, scored 18 points, and Franklin’s Connor Peterson added 15 as the Seawolves’ lone post presence. They also feature Tiverton's Tyler Murray and former Bishop Feehan star Michael Perry, an Attleboro native. “I feel like we’re definitely better than last year. We have a different dynamic. We have five guys who can get to the basket,” Herren Jr. said. “When we have games like this when we aren’t in rhythm, it’s tough to get back in the game. That’s what happened. We have to trust the offense and move the ball around. When it gets static, we can’t do anything against a good team like this.”

FERNANDES ON PLAYING ST. ANDREW’S BRYCEN GOODINE ON FRIDAY: “I love playing against him. I wish I could play with him again. I was so proud (when he committed to Syracuse). It’s hard for kids to come out of here. When I saw that, I was super proud.”

NOAH'S NEXT STEP: Fernandes has four offers from Division I schools — Boston University, Columbia, Old Dominion and Richmond — and has received interest from North Carolina State, Iowa, Boston College and Providence College. “I’m not really worried about it,” he said. “I’m just trying to push to my max and work as hard as I can so wherever I go to school, it seems like I belong there. I’m not blessed with height or athleticism. I’m just going to keep working hard until I can’t get any better.”

CLARKE IN CONTROL: The best player on the court was Clarke, a 6-foot-6 swingman with long arms, quick moves and a silky stroke. The 180-pounder from Dorchester recently visited Indiana and finished with 26 points. Fernandes and Clarke play together in the Expressions AAU program. “That’s my boy,” Fernandes said. “I’ve seen him grow and improve his whole life. Of course, it’s hard to play against him because he’s really good, but it’s cool to see him grow up.”

LOCAL CONNECTION: Rivers’ second-best player was senior Tyler Aronson, who has committed to Tufts. The son of Damon Aronson, a UMass Dartmouth basketball standout in the late 1980s, he scored 24 points and displayed a pin-point shot from deep. His younger brother, Spencer, is a sophomore guard at Lawrence Academy.

JUST GRADUATED: The Rivers’ School is enjoying another solid season despite graduating 6-foot-8 forward Jermaine Samuels, who now plays at Villanova, and Azar Swain, who scored 2,000 points and now plays at Yale.

Tabor Academy (8-4)

Noah Fernandes 27, C.J. Redd 18, Connor Peterson 15, Chris Herren Jr 14, Angel Santiago 4

The Rivers School (14-1)

Terrence Clarke 26, Tyler Aronson 24, Jay Dieterle 14, Camaron Tongue 13, Connor Ojerholm 4, Andrew Snoddy 3, Kyle Butler 1

Rivers;40;44—84

Tabor;38;40—78

3-pointers: T: Fernandes 4, Herren 3, Redd 1; R: Dieterle 2, Aronson 2, Clarke 1, Tongue 1

Next: Tabor plays at Groton at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday.