LAND O'LAKES — Facing an IMG Academy squad that featured 6-foot-10 Stanford commitment Dwight Powell as its centerpiece, and Ridgewood had to muster the perfect game plan to slow the powerhouse club from Bradenton.
And the Rams did.
Ridgewood used the zone to confuse IMG throughout the game, and behind 28 points from all-tournament selection Charles Jones defeated IMG Academy 57-53 in the championship of the Sunlake New Year's Invitational on Friday night.
"We sat there in our zone and we felt like that was our best bet," Ridgewood coach Gary Anders said. "I wasn't sure what kind of emotion the kids had after last night, but the kids were looking forward to playing tonight. That was as good of a defense we are going to see all year."
Jones faced a tough task in the second half, as he was covered by Powell (17 points, 15 rebounds), also an all-tournament selection.
That opened up opportunities for other players to step up for Ridgewood (13-3), as Jacob Rauh provided a spark with 13 points and two assists. Rams junior forwards Michael Wood and Scott Kujak battled in the paint and combined for 17 rebounds.
In the fourth quarter it came down to free-throw shooting. Rams senior guard Charles Vazquez came up with a key steal, and with 57.8 seconds left put up a layup that looked as if it was blocked by Powell, but referees quickly called goaltending. Vazquez's basket clinched the title.
In earlier games Springstead defeated Gulf 56-53, Wesley Chapel 56-40 got past Zephyrhills and Mitchell cruised to a 54-37 win over Sunlake in the third-place game.