NEW PORT RICHEY — Forget the postseason. If Ridgewood can fire on all its proverbial cylinders down the stretch, it will be ready for the NASCAR season.
Playing at a tempo that would have appealed as much to Jimmie Johnson as Magic Johnson, the Rams (26-2) overwhelmed Newsome (20-6) in the final three quarters Thursday night en route to a 71-36 region quarterfinal triumph.
The proverbial checkered flag was preceded by a white one. In accordance with state guidelines, a running clock was instituted in the final minutes when Ridgewood took a 35-point lead.
The Rams travel to King for Tuesday night's region semis.
"We'll be tough to stop if we can shoot like that," said Rams senior point guard Alvin Satram, who combined with junior swingman C.J. Jones for 42 points and six 3-pointers. "It's unbelievable when we can shoot like that."
Things could go from unbelievable to scary when the Rams get all their components clicking. On a night when post players Lukas Poderis (11 points) and Bryan Jones (10) were relatively silent, the Satram-C.J. Jones tandem simply went off.
Overshadowed initially by Wolves junior Samal Shepherd, who scored 13 of his 19 points in the first quarter, the Rams responded by tightening their perimeter defense. Ahead only 20-17 after eight minutes, C.J. Jones opened the second with a putback sandwiched by a pair of treys to give Ridgewood a 28-20 advantage.
That ignited a lopsided second quarter in which the Rams outscored the Wolves 21-5. It ended with C.J. Jones' transition basket off a Satram feed, and an ensuing Satram runner to give Ridgewood a 41-21 halftime lead.
Newsome converted only six field goals in the final three quarters — one fewer than it made in the first quarter.
"(Rams coach Gary Anders) told us we've got to pick up our defense because we were just giving them wide-open shots, uncontested shots," Satram said. "Everything was just easy for them. So Coach just told us to tighten up our defense, get around screens and play tough."
C.J. Jones finished with 22, two more than Satram, who had 14 in the first half and nine in the first quarter. His four-point play — a free throw after getting fouled on a 3-pointer — gave the Rams a 10-6 lead it never relinquished.
"I told him when he came off the floor it was a great senior performance tonight," Anders said. "He was a leader. He obviously played well, he scored well. But early on I thought he was the only one that was giving us a lot of energy. And then all of the sudden his teammates started feeding off him a little bit."