The final result Tuesday night was a 55-44 loss to Tampa Catholic, and Ridgewood coach Gary Zimmerman kept referring to the score as a sign that his team has gotten better since it last played the Crusaders.
But has it?
After all, the game was really over when Tampa Catholic took a 51-31 lead midway through the fourth quarter. What happened in garbage time showed only Tampa Catholic's disinterest in finishing the contest. With the exception of the first three minutes, the Rams were never in it.
Zimmerman admitted some concern, though, after his team's first home loss of the season. The gap between a pair of teams with 22 wins coming in was much too wide _ how many miles is it to Hillsborough County? _ to bode well for a big playoff run.
And that was the idea of scheduling this game, he said. He wanted to assess his team's progress (since a 60-41 loss to Tampa Catholic in December) and get them a tough game before next week's district tournament. The Rams (22-5) got that and then some from the state's ninth-ranked team in Class 3A.
A spirited beginning, with the Rams running the court and feeding the ball into Alayna Sherwood and Jen Sessa _ who split all eight first-quarter points _ was wiped out by a 17-2 run by Tampa Catholic (23-3) in which it flashed its speed and athleticism and Ridgewood wilted under the pressure, missing several easy shots, when they could get them.
Then down 29-16 at the half, the Rams shot 3-of-19 in the third and opened the fourth by making one of their first eight. Some misses were from outside, not a Ram strength, but their inability to make layups (they made just 17 of 58 shots overall) cost them, Zimmerman said.
"If we had made half our shots or even 40 percent, we would have been in the ballgame," he said. "How fast (or athletic) they are has nothing to do with us missing wide open shots."
Jen Sessa led the Rams, who had their 10-game winning streak snapped, with 15 points.