The Ridge High School boys basketball team hit the courts Saturday looking to avenge their only loss of the 2013 season against the one team that beat them — longtime county rival Gill St. Bernard's from Peapack-Gladstone. Now on the big stage, battling for the Somerset County Championship, Ridge would go on to play a near perfect game for a 69-56 victory against the star-laden and strong Gill squad.
1st 2nd 3rd 4th FINAL Gill St. Bernard's (17-7) 17 12 16 12 56 Ridge (24-1) 13 12 21 23 69
Ridge players knew they had to play better than they did just nine days ago when Gill broke their unbeaten streak in a regular season game. "I think it was good that we had that loss," said Red Devil Matt Gerrity. "It brought us together even more."
"It is all mental. We prepared like we were going to win the game," said Lane Legband. "Coach [Brian Feath] told us we could do it. As long as we came out here with that mindset, we knew we were going to win."
The two teams squared off from the start with their leaders taking the reins. The first quarter had Eric Klacik and Hugh Morris advancing Ridge in the game with seven and four points respectively, while Tyus Battle led Gill with 11 first-quarter points.
And the respective teams' leaders continued to carry the game throughout. Gill's Jaren Sina would pick it up in the 2nd quarter and would produce 24 of his 26 points in the game's final three periods with five 3 pointers and 5 field goals. Teammate Tyus Battle would play his part going 5-6 from the charity stripe and dropping in another 3 pointer for 19 points.
But it would be Ridge's big man, Hugh Morris, who would take another step out of his shell to score a game and career high of 27 points. Morris' second career high game in a week saw him rewarded as the SCT Tournament MVP. "I had 27 points and 24 of them came directly from my teammates," said Morris, displaying the Red Devils' team spirit. "They broke down the defense and all I had to do was lay the ball in. The only thing I did today was I didn't miss any layups."
Klacik was a perfect 10 for 10 from the freethrow line and scored 18 points for the Devils. "We knew we could do it no matter how many people in this gym were against us," said Eric Klacik. "As long as we believed in each other, we knew we could pull it off. We played the hardest game of the year. It was the smartest we played, unselfish, everyone was working the ball. That's teamwork right there, all teamwork."
"Every time I went in I was filled with energy," said Jake Mahon. "It was a great environment.
"I am shaking, I can't even talk," said Matt Gerrity. "That was crazy, the craziest game of my life. There was so much energy I didn't want the game to end. It was crazy. Coming in I knew we could play with them. I still can't believe we just won that."
"I'm in shock," said Kevin Doolan. "We knew it was going to be a good game, because we were really embarrassed by them last game. I didn't think it would end up like that. The seniors pulled it out, a great senior group that really stayed together through the hard stuff."
"It's all about the team," said Ridge coach Brian Feath. "That has been the theme all year. The guys love each other, they work for each other, they want to win for each other. I just hope I can coach these guys for a couple more weeks."
Both teams head into the first round of their state playoffs next week.
No. 5 seed Gill will host No. 12 seed St. Joseph's Wednesday at 7 p.m.
No. 2 seed Ridge will host No. 15 seed Scotch Plains-Fanwood Monday at 7 p.m.