The boys basketball team traveled to Elizabeth's Dunn Center to take on the pre-tournament favorite home team in the state section semifinals last Saturday. Just days before, having cleared the hurdle of beating the No. 1 seed Columbia High School, the Red Devils were at an advantage: They had nothing to lose.
Despite the team's gutsy performance against a team that might have looked better on paper, the Ridge team had to leave Elizabeth with might-have-been memories for the evening. Even after a fourth quarter comeback in which Ridge outscored its opponent, the Devils had to leave after yielding a 53-51 win to Elizabeth.
Even so, speaking about the team's first year with a new coach, Brian Feath, Ridge Athletic Director Rich Shello said he felt the season had gone very well.
"It was a good transition and I think the kids had a lot to do with that," Shello said this week. "They had a good sense of maturity with the seven seniors on the team."
"They had a great season," Shello said. "And that was because they were talented players and they worked very hard. For the most part they played cohesively, but incosistency hurt them at times and may have prevented them from having an outstanding season. They brought their armor every night, played hard every night and they beat some really good teams."
Referring to the departure at the end of the last school year of head basketball Coach Mark Taylor, Shello said, "When a coach leaves, there is that sadness and that 'My God, what are we going to do?' mentality. [But] once Brian was in the position, they bought into his philosophies and teaching," Shello added.
"I think the program is in good shape. We are very competitive in the conference. We have a good bunch of kids returning that work hard and trust each other. I couldn't be happier from my chair," Shello said.
Feath was unavailable through email this past week.
According to an account of last week's contest against Elizabeth posted on the Ridge Red Devils Hoops website, the Devils launched the game with a pair of 3 pointers from Dillon Mahon and a basket by Jack Kerwin, Ridge was looking pretty solid with a four-point lead at 8-4. But the speed and quickness of Elizabeth's Minutemen would prove a challenge and the Elizabeth team would post 13 unanswered points to go into the break with a 22-11 lead.
On the strength of the changes made at the half, Ridge mounted a comeback on inside play that generated basket-and-foul sequences for Jack Kerwin and a 3 pointer from Mahon. With just a minute to go, Dylan Kerwin would hit a 3 point basket that would bring the Devils to within one point at 47-46.
But in the waning seconds of the game, a Minuteman would can a 3 pointer, sealing the fated win for that evening. The final score left Ridge just two points down, 53-51, even though Ridge had outscored Elizabeth by 24 to 16 points in the final quarter.