Ridgeway versus Southwind is one of those prep basketball rivalries that generates an energy-filled gymnasium no matter the records of the teams or whether there is a title on the line. The latest evidence came last Friday when the Roadrunners traveled to face the Jaguars.
The Southwind gym was a packed house with fans from both schools given plenty of reasons to be on the edge of their seats and jumping to their feet for the rivals’ first meeting this season. After leading by double digits most of the game, Southwind’s Jaguars had to mount a spirited comeback to claim the 90-85 win.
With the win, Southwind (25-1, 9-0) clinched the 15-AAA boys’ basketball district championship. Ridgeway (14-8, 6-2) will host a rematch on Friday.
“Ridgeway versus Southwind — this is how it always ends up,” Southwind head coach Paul Edwards said. “Sometimes we are on the lucky side, sometimes they are on the lucky side.”
Reflecting on his team losing a big lead, Edwards said, “We got away from what we were doing. We started settling for jump shots. We were 3-14 from three-point range in the first half. We shouldn’t have been taking threes at that point. We were getting to the basket at will.”
Ridgeway head coach Wesley Henning said his team just didn’t finish.
“We had it right there in our hands. We had three critical turnovers right there at the end. We played hard and scuffled back. We had three timeouts left. I told them if they get into any trouble to call a timeout, but they just over thought it.”
Henning tried to prepare his team for an early run by Southwind. He told them the game was sold out and that the Jaguars were going to play off their crowd. He reminded them that the game is made of four quarters and to just chip away at the lead.
“Two good teams played,” said Henning. “The kids played hard (and) both teams played well enough to win.”
Southwind jumped to a 7-0 lead. The defense of the Jaguars led by junior center Kameron Jones had six blocks to go along with his 16 points in the game.
Jones’ play was the heart and soul of the Jaguars’ defense and stopped most of the early penetration by the talented Ridgeway guards. Southwind’s Mark Freeman scored 28 points, grabbed four rebounds and dished out four assists.
Every time the Roadrunners made a run, the Jaguars were able to stop their run and did not allow them to get any closer than seven points in the first half. Southwind was in total control of the game, pushing to lead by as many as 14 points (41-27) with 1:15 left in the first half and taking a 44-33 advantage into the halftime break..
In the second half, the Roadrunners played determined basketball but Southwind withstood every charge. Ridgeway had many opportunities to take the lead in the third quarter, but too many empty offensive trips hurt their flow. The Jaguars took a 61-58 lead into the final quarter.
The Roadrunners suffered a big loss with senior guard Brandon Mason leaving the game after he collided with an official while going for a loose ball. Mason, who had 10 points, did not return.
Ridgeway’s Antwan Beans’ 28 points, six rebounds and three steals would be crucial in the Roadrunners being able to finally get over the hump. Beans scored on a layup and was fouled, which gave Ridgeway its first lead (73-72) with 4:05 left in the game.
Southwind took a three-point lead into the final seconds of the game after Freeman connected on a couple of free throws. Beans had a chance to tie the game at 88 on a three-point shot but it fell short and Southwind was able to preserve the win.
Although Freeman had an impressive stats line, Edwards said he could have played even better.
“He did not play his best game tonight. If I was to rate him I would only give him a five out of 10,” Edwards said. “He can play much better. He is a difference maker. He has the keys to the car and drove us to a win. Also, I love what we got from Jalin Clay. He had a double-double at the half.”