NEW PORT RICHEY — With Sunshine Athletic Conference supremacy on the line, Ridgewood was hoping to upset Wiregrass Ranch on Thursday night, but the short-handed Bulls had other ideas.
Despite a halftime lead and a career night from point guard Brandon Green, the Rams fell 65-64, victims of a tip-in as time expired.
Wiregrass Ranch star Rico Kerney, who came in averaging 22 points and 11 rebounds, sat out the first half for missing practice earlier in the week.
“(Kerney) was very accepting of the punishment,” Bulls coach Jeremy Calzone said. “He knows the rules, and he gave us a real boost once he came off the bench.”
The Bulls (12-4) were down 32-28 at the half and were struggling to stop Green. The senior guard, who averages 11.9 points, had 23 going into the locker room and finished with a career-high 35, including four 3-pointers and 11 free throws. Green had scored at least 20 only once in his prep career, scoring 21 against Wesley Chapel in November.
Even with Kerney (12 points, seven rebounds) in the contest, Ridgewood (10-7) hung tough and held a lead with just more than a minute left in regulation.
That is when things broke down.
A steal in the backcourt led to a quick basket from Wiregrass guard DiMarco Burgess (four points) to tie the score at 63. Ridgewood took the ball out, but a fullcourt press forced another steal, this time by Chris Parra (17 points, three steals) with 54 seconds left.
A timeout from Calzone was designed to give the Bulls the final shot in regulation, but with 10 seconds on the clock, the ball was thrown away and Ridgewood’s Tristan Ficarro, who came in as the team’s leading scorer at 15 points per game, had a fastbreak opportunity.
Fouled by Burgess, Ficarro went to line for the chance to put the Rams ahead and score his first points of the game.
Ficarro hit 1-of-2 and the Bulls rebounded with 2.5 seconds on the clock. The team had to inbound from the far baseline under Ridgewood’s basket, down 64-63. The long pass went over the overcommitted Rams defense and led to an easy layup chance for Parra.
Despite his miss, Kerney was right there for the tip as the buzzer sounded.