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River Ridge beats doldrums

In a game this tight _ and this flat _ someone needed to step up and make a big play.

In Thursday night's season opener for Hernando and River Ridge, that player was Lisa Casamassina.

How tight was it? Tight as the play on both sides, with players having opening-night jitters in the non-district, non-conference game in the Hernando gym.

Perhaps that's why the contest remained mired within a point for almost its entirety _ and maybe why it was tied at 4 after one quarter _ before River Ridge pulled out a 39-34 victory.

Casamassina broke both teams out of their trance when she pulled down a high pass underneath the Hernando basket and _ while falling across the baseline _ whipped a perfect pass to Ashlea Thomas, whose bucket tied the game at 34 with 1:16 left to play.

Stephanie Booth gave River Ridge (1-0) the lead for good when she swished a pair of free throws after being fouled by Jennifer Jones. Jessica Deeb added a pair of free throws, and Casamassina added one more to seal the win.

Booth and Deeb led the Knights with 10 points each. Katye Altieri posted nine for the Leopards, who had no other player score more than five.

While both teams fought with inertia for most of the game, a key in the contest was free-throw shooting: Both took 12 shots, but Hernando (0-1) could have matched River Ridge's score had it matched the Knights in hitting nine throws instead of four.

None of the Leopards' shooters connected on both ends, while Booth (4-for-4) and Deeb (2-for-2) were perfect.

"It wasn't bad for the first game of the season," said Brian Colding, who won in his first game as the Knights coach. "The shooting was a little shaky, but we didn't play in a classic or a jamboree. I thought it was a nice surprise how we put on some pressure defensively."

Hernando did get good work out of point guard Ana Mena, who impressed on defense with several steals, and Altieri, whose accurate outside shooting could have been a bigger factor had her team had not turned over the ball so often.