NEW PORT RICHEY — Ridgewood had everything running smoothly Monday night at the Ram Classic at Anders Court. The Rams led 17-1 with 7:46 remaining in the second quarter against Palm Harbor University, had homecourt advantage and a sizable home crowd to pump them up.
But Rams coach Gary Anders pointed out something that has been missing almost all season: effort.
And even with the lack of effort, the Rams were able to pull out a 61-51 win over an inspired Hurricanes team that climbed back from a 16-point hole early in the game.
"Unfortunately adjustments have been something we're not able to do a lot because we're spending a lot of our time coaching effort," Anders said. "When it comes down to it, when you're begging kids to give effort, maybe they should go do something else. We are just not playing with any consistent energy right now."
Ridgewood (8-3) owned the first 8:16, surging ahead 17-1. But PHU (2-6) withstood the early barrage and senior guard Ja'Tyuan Landing's layup with 32.8 seconds left before the half cut Ridgewood's lead to 28-18. In the second half PHU chipped away at the lead, as Landing (eight points, one assist) made a scooping layup and got the foul, earning a three-point play the hard way to put the Hurricanes down only four with 5:40 left in the third quarter.
But the Rams bounced back in the fourth quarter, going 9-of-14 from the free-throw line and fighting off the Hurricanes' valiant comeback attempt. Charles Jones led the Rams with nine points, seven rebounds, four assists and three blocks.
"We came out a little flat in the early going," PHU coach Michael Walters said. "I think the kids got a little embarrassed after the first quarter, but they fought back and played hard."
Ridgewood will play Riverview, a 56-29 winner over Zephyrhills.
The Sharks (6-4) forced 21 turnovers and used a 10-0 third quarter run to take a 42-20 lead with 19 seconds left before the fourth quarter. Riverview was led by Brandon Samuels (14 points) and Kyron Miles (12).
George Jenkins and Land O'Lakes battled to the final seconds, but George Jenkins edged the Gators 49-47. Travis Green scored a game-high 17 to lead Jenkins.
Brandon was a 49-40 winner over St. Petersburg Catholic and will face George Jenkins.