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NEW PORT RICHEY — The 23rd annual William G. Hulton Jr. Ram Classic kicked off with a bang Wednesday at Ridgewood.
The eight-team tournament was knocked down to four after a competitive first round. Among the programs to miss out on the semifinals were the host Rams.
After a 75-71 loss to St. Petersburg Catholic, Ridgewood found itself ousted early in its own tournament for the first time since 2003. The Rams have been in the championship game of the Ram Classic 11 times.
“This is definitely not something we’re used to,” Ridgewood coach Mike Bua said. “To be honest, this is one of the best games we’ve played this season.”
Ridgewood (5-6) went back and forth with the Barons (7-2) for much of regulation but held a 63-57 advantage with 3:27 remaining. It was then that St. Petersburg Catholic cranked up the defensive pressure and began to trap more in the halfcourt.
An 11-0 run from the Barons gave them a 68-63 lead with 1:04 remaining. A tie at 63 was broken by St. Petersburg Catholic star Ryan Green with a 3-pointer. Green, who was 0-for-4 from long range before that shot, was terrific otherwise. He finished with a game-high 26 points, five rebounds and six assists.
“Green played like a man among boys at times out there,” Bua said. “That’s no disrespect to my guys, but he was taking the ball to the basket at will.”
The Rams struggled with foul trouble. The team was quick to the bonus in both halves and star center Tony Hays was saddled on the bench throughout. He had to sit in the first quarter after arriving late, according to Bua.
He scored only two points and grabbed one rebound in the second quarter before heading back to the bench with two fouls. In the second half he was big for the team, finishing with 13 points, nine rebounds and four blocks. However, his fourth foul sparked the Barons’ late comeback.
St. Petersburg Catholic will go on to face East Lake (5-3), which beat Brandon (3-6) 52-47.
Today’s other semifinal pits Clearwater (6-3) against Bradenton Southeast (4-3). The Tornadoes knocked off George Jenkins (5-3) in the first game of the day, 58-56, and the Seminoles won their game over Anclote (6-1) 68-59.