NEW PORT RICHEY — Despite having the advantage in size, Ridgewood relied on its perimeter play to come from behind in the second half and wrest the Class 4A, District 7 crown from Mitchell 58-54 on Saturday.
"About that, oh no. I don't know how they beat us inside," Ridgewood senior guard Charles Johnson said. "I posted up a bit in the first half, but we had to take over the game from the outside."
Johnson posted 20 points, including four 3-pointers. Three of those long shots were scored back-to-back-to-back, sparking a 10-1 Rams run that put them up 43-38 at the end of the third quarter.
"That first one that I hit, I was just feeling it," Johnson said.
Ridgewood found itself behind 28-25 at the half, and both Johnson and fellow senior Jacob Rauh were held to a combined eight points. Rams coach Gary Anders said he was low-key in the locker room.
"It wasn't an exorcism. We have had some over the years, but we just talked about aggressiveness at the offensive end of the court," Anders said. "Obviously offense was our focus at halftime. We discussed how we were stagnant and complacent and they obviously responded."
Rauh and Johnson combined for 30 of Ridgewood's 33 second-half points. And it was Johnson who wound up on the stripe when the Mustangs started drawing fouls in an attempt to get back into the game. Johnson went 3-for-4 from the line in the fourth. The Rams went 4-for-7 as a team.
"Specifically me and Jake. Coach wanted the ball in our hands," Johnson said. "He wanted us to run the offense, he wanted the ball in our hands and we had to make plays."
In spite of the offensive surge and the solid presence on the line, the Mustangs drew within one point with 38 seconds left in the game. Johnson was fouled, made both of his shots and the Rams went ahead by three.
On the following possession the Mustangs missed a 3, but claimed the rebound before inadvertently throwing the ball out of bounds. The Mustangs fouled one more time. Johnson made his first free throw and missed his second, for the final margin.