The Ridgewood girls basketball team became a district champion for the first time Saturday night, beating Citrus 42-38 at Land O'Lakes High to win the Class 3A, District 7 title. The Rams (15-10) will play at the winner of the Class 3A, District 8 title _ Haines City or Auburndale _ in Tuesday night's Class 3A, Region IV game. Citrus finished 18-9.
Ridgewood led all but one time during the game. Trailing 31-25 after three quarters, Citrus scored the first seven points of the fourth quarter. Tracy Suplee's three-point basket with 6:23 left to play gave the Hurricanes their only lead, 32-31.
The Rams answered with a 7-0 run.
Senior guard Chrissy Mourtakos sparked the spurt with two consecutive baskets. Mourtakos' second score in the run was a steal and layup that gave Ridgewood a 37-32 lead with 3:17 left.
"It's a team," Ridgewood coach Jim Bavetta said of Mourtakos' clutch play at game's end. "It's been a team all year, and it'll stay that way."
Citrus fought back late. Baskets by Marcy Caruthers and Shelly King closed the Hurricanes to 37-36, but they could not pull even.
At that point, nerves took control of the Hurricanes, Citrus coach Bruce Nelson said.
"We got a one-point lead and got a little too nervous," Nelson said. "It was an emotional time, and usually our emotions carry us. Ridgewood and us were in the same situation: trying to win the first district (girls basketball) championship."
Ridgewood was led by Charlotte Jones' game-high 16 points and eight rebounds. Jones, a sophomore, scored all five of her baskets off her team's misses. "When you limit a team to one shot," Bavetta said, "you're going to be tough to beat."
King was the only other player to score in double figures, with 10 points.
Both teams were victimized by severly cold starts. In fact, the starts were frigid. In the first half, Ridgewood converted only 23 percent _ seven of 30 shots. Citrus shot .148 percent (4-for-27).
Early on, neither team could hit a basket. Caruthers' jumper with 1:12 left in the first quarter was the first basket of the game.
Ridgewood, which led 6-4 at the end of the first quarter, scored 12 unanswered points. The Rams cruised to a 21-8 halftime lead.
"They (Citrus) could've easily come in and laid down," Nelson said, "but they didn't give up."