WESLEY CHAPEL — River Ridge showed in its first two games last week how far the program has come from last winter’s two-win regular season.
Monday night, Wiregrass Ranch gave the Royal Knights a reminder of just how far they have left to go.
The Bulls forced 30 turnovers and kept Division I prospect John Childs in check to cruise to a season-opening 81-47 victory.
“We saw River Ridge was a team that was up-and-coming,” Bulls coach Jeremy Calzone said. “I told the guys today, we ain’t going anywhere. We’re going to prove that we’re a good team. This is how you start, tonight.”
And the Bulls (1-0) started hot immediately. Larrentz Manora opened the game with one of his team’s nine 3-pointers. Moments later, senior guard Dimarco Burgess hit a cutting Rico Kerney for an alley-oop dunk, and Wiregrass Ranch never looked back.
“We came out strong tonight,” said Kerney, who finished with a game-high 22 points.
River Ridge (2-1) couldn’t match the success it showed last week when it equaled its regular season win total from last season with two victories at the tournament it hosted. Wiregrass’ defense wouldn’t let it.
The Bulls tallied 13 steals — including five from Kerney — in a dizzying fullcourt press that stifled River Ridge’s offense and kept the ball away from Childs. After the 6-foot-9 junior scored 45 and recorded two triple doubles in his first two games, Wiregrass held him to 10 points, 10 rebounds and six blocks.
“We’re not gonna be able to play halfcourt against that big fella,” Calzone said. “He’s good.”
The Bulls’ hectic pace led to a balanced scoring attack. Burgess (14 points), Manora (13) and Marcus Guzman (10) finished in double figures. Micheal Jones led River Ridge with 11 points, and Dallas Maclauglen added eight points.
River Ridge first-year head coach Chuck Butler missed the game because of medical issues, so JV coach Thomas Cione took over. Butler is expected to return to the sidelines this week, Cione said.