LAND O'LAKES — The bleachers were filled with fans and full of life.
The anticipation of an early-season battle was reminiscent of the hype before a huge prize fight. And in an attempt to mimic boxing in recent years, one heavyweight came to fight and the other did not.
Officials seemed determined to disrupt any rhythm Tuesday, whistling the teams for a combined 48 fouls, including four technicals.
In the end, Ridgewood ran Land O'Lakes out of its own gym in a 91-60 romp. Ridgewood led almost the entire way, maintaining a double-digit lead the final three quarters.
The win against the Gators (6-3) established the Rams (7-2) as the team to beat in Class 5A, District 7 and proved they have moved beyond the losses of Mike Lawrence and Derrick Zio to graduation last spring.
Ridgewood did it with an impressive all-around attack, striking early and often from the perimeter. The Rams hit 11 3-pointers, including five from Jacob Rauh (17 points). Rams guard Alvin Satram scored a game-high 22 points with 11 assists and five steals while forward Lukas Poderis scored 19 and grabbed 14 rebounds.
"When the ball goes in the basket everything looks pretty good," Ridgewood coach Gary Anders said. "… I think we kept enough pressure on their shooters to force them into some tough shots."
The Gators were overwhelmed thanks to Ridgewood's stellar defense. Land O'Lakes struggled to penetrate inside and settled for outside shots.
Anders challenged the Rams before the game to end a pattern of allowing star opponents to flourish. They answered by shutting down the Gators' top scoring options. Land O'Lakes guard Kevin Burnell, who entered the game averaging a team-high 21.9 points, was held to a season-low 10 with just one point in the first half. And Quentin Bastian, who was averaging 12.3 points, scored just four.
"They shot really well against our poor defense and we shot really bad against their good defense," Land O'Lakes coach Dave Puhalski said. "My two stars, Bastian and Burnell, were 0-for-14 (for field goals) combined in the first half. When you can't make shots, you're going to dig a deep hole and against a good team we're not going to get second opportunities."