After two years of losing in the district quarterfinal, Ridgway boys basketball can say it's over the hump and among District 9's final four.
Ridgway used a strong last 2:40 of the third quarter to create some distance from Sheffield en route to a 65-48 victory over the Wolverines Friday night in the District 9 Class boys basketball quarterfinal held at Ridgway Area High School.
Ridgway (24-1) will advance to play Clarion-Limestone (20-4) in the district semifinal Wednesday night. A time and site has yet to be officially announced for that game. Johnsonburg (21-4) will play Elk County Catholic (15-10) in the other semifinal.
Ridgway coach Anthony Allegretto said there was a sense of relief after getting by this point after losses to Elk County Catholic in 2010 and DuBois Central Catholic in 2011, both district quarterfinal games.
"We got by it. Everybody's happy," Allegretto said. "We can breathe a sigh of relief now. We'll try to progress through the district here and then go forward into the states. We're happy to do that, it's another step for the program. That's what we're trying to do. We want to make this not just one year, we want to make this a yearly trip, that would be sweet."
Ridgway led 42-37 after a Sheffield basket from Ike Nearing at the 2:40 mark of the third quarter. Nearing would pick up his fourth foul soon after and the Elkers took advantage of the foul trouble, going on a 9-2 run to end the third quarter and taking a 51-39 lead into the final eight minutes. After Jesse Reynolds and Kalil Slaughter alternated field goals, Josh Mitchell converted on a 3-point play for Ridgway. An Eric Matheson free throw was followed by a another 3-point play from Reynolds to extend the lead to 12 entering the fourth quarter. Reynolds led all scorers with 26 points.
"They went triangle-and-2 for the most part at the start of the game with both guys on Eric (Matheson)," Allegretto said. "Jordan (Lundin) hit a couple of threes and they went triangle-and-2 on Jordan and Eric. Jesse had to be the man and he stepped up. Somebody has to step up and make shots and that was Jesse."
George Fitch opened the fourth quarter with a basket but a Lundin 3-pointer and a Matheson hoop extended the Ridgway lead to 15 at 56-41 with under five minutes left. The teams each scored five points in the following 2:30 to have the Elkers leading 61-46. A Lundin free throw and a Reynolds basket would seal the game at 64-46 as both teams put backup players in to finish the last minute.
"The second half, we came out and played some better defense," Allegretto said. "We fixed some of the problems we had and we got some scoring from Jesse for us to stretch out the lead. Jesse and Jordan along the baseline got some easy shots there. Once we were able to stretch it out, we were able to gamble a little bit more, create some more turnovers and put the game away."
Allegretto said Ridgway backed off the press and challenged Sheffield with its man-to-man defense in the halfcourt.
"We know we can play pretty good halfcourt man-to-man," Allegretto said. "We just dropped into halfcourt man-to-man. As long as we can score, we knew they were going to have trouble because the way they scored in the first half, that was all runouts and rebounds. The second half, they did a nice job on the first play underneath but then I think we shut them down for a little while."
After two blowout losses to the Elkers during the regular season, (73-36 on Jan. 10 and 76-44 on Feb. 3) Sheffield hung tough with Ridgway for the first half and into the third quarter.
"The more you play a team, the more they learn about you," Allegretto said. "They were able to do some things to us. They got some easy shots, they got some runouts. They made some great plays."
Lundin opened the game with a layup for Ridgway but Nearing answered with a hoop of his own for Sheffield. After trading field goals again, Lundin nailed a trey. Nick Bonavita would answer back with a transition basket and Mitchell would add a basket for Ridgway to make the Elker lead 9-6. Bonavita led the Wolverines with 12 points.
Sheffield would get within four at 12-10 before back-to-back treys from Lundin and Reynolds pushed the Ridgway lead to 18-10 with 2:51 left in the first quarter. Ridgway hit four of its six three-pointers in the opening quarter.
Slaughter and Reynolds would trade field goals to make the margin 20-12 but the Wolverines would score the next 10 points at the end of the first quarter and into the second. Fitch would score eight straight points to tie the game at 20 and a Nearing basket would put the Wolverines ahead for the first time at 22-20. A field goal and two free throws from Matheson had Ridgway ahead 24-22 before Mark Sprandle hit a corner 3-pointer to take the lead back for the Wolverines. Reynolds and Bonavita exchanged 3-point shots before Reynolds and Lundin would hit consecutive shots for a 31-28 Ridgway lead with 1:47 left. Nearing would nudge Sheffield within one at 31-30. Ridgway held the ball for the final shot with a minute left and the move would ultimately pay off. After an initial miss, the offensive rebound bounced out to Reynolds who hit a mid-range jumper to give the Elkers a 33-30 halftime lead.
Ridgway would lead 38-35 near the 5-minute mark in the third quarter before Reynolds added a basket and Lundin would score off an offensive rebound to extend the Ridgway lead to 42-35. Lundin had 18 points while Matheson finished with 11.