Second half surge lifts unbeaten Ridgway past Eisenhower
Wednesday’s non-region battle between Eisenhower and Ridgway was a tale of two halves.
In the first half, Jaydon Hayes and the Knights hung right with the unbeaten Elkers, and went into the locker room down 25-24.
In the second half, the visiting Elkers turned up the defense that has become their calling card as an annual District 9 title contender, earning a 55-38 win.
“That’s a really good non-region team we just played,” said Eisenhower coach Ryan Williams. “I’m glad it’s early in the season, because this is a game we can learn from. They (Ridgway) pride themselves on defense and you saw that tonight.”
Tajah Warren hit a pair of free throws early in the third quarter to give the Knights (0-5) a 26-25 lead, but they didn’t score against until a pair of Cyrus Hazeltine free throws with 17 seconds left in the third.
In between, Ridgway (5-0) went on a 14-0 run, led by Neil MacDonald, who scored a game-high 21 points.
“We took care of the ball a little bit better in the second half and made our fouls shots,” said Ridgway coach Tony Allegretto. “And Hayes was in foul trouble and sat out a lot, and that obviously helped us.”
It was all Hayes in the first half, as he scored 16 of his team-high 17 points while pulling down 10 rebounds.
Zack Fincher opened the game with a three for the Knights, and then Hayes went to work. He scored on a strong drive to the rim and had a pair of putbacks as the Knights jumped out to an early 9-6 lead.
Ridgway responded, going on a 15-6 run, capped by an Andy Breier drive to the basket that gave them a 23-15 lead.
Eisenhower, however, bounced right back, led by Hayes, who scored 10 points in the quarter, capped by an impressive coast-to-coast layup.
“The guys we wanted to guard him (Hayes) got in foul trouble in the first half,” noted Allegretto. “He goes left and he puts his head down and goes and he’s really good at it. We weren’t able to stop him in the first half. We were able to adjust to his drives in the second half.”
Despite Eisenhower’s best efforts, once the Elkers got their double-digit lead, they weren’t able to put a dent in it. Hazeltine had a strong drive to the rim, followed by a triple by Drew Williams, but Hayes fouled out with 3:35 to go and Ridgway shot 17 of its 24 free throws in the fourth quarter, making 15.
Wednesday’s game has been part of a brutal early-season schedule for the Knights, but coach Williams knows it will make his team better.
“We had the Fairview Tournament, and then games like tonight and against Cambridge Springs and we have Cochranton on Friday,” he noted. “And we love it and I hope we can learn from it. As long as we’re tough by February and going into the playoffs, I like it. We’ll watch film and work on what we need to get better at.”
Ridgway also won the JV game, 32-5.
The Knights host Cochranton on Friday.
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MacDonald 8-5-7-21, Breier 5-2-4-12, Thorwart 0-0-2-0, Mitchell 1-3-3-5, Allegretto 3-3-6-11, Hinton 0-0-0-0, Wickett 0-0-0-0, Reynolds 0-0-0-0, Thompson 1-0-0-2, Dush 0-4-4-4, Totals 18-17-24-55
Myer 1-0-0-2, Warren 1-3-4-5, Venman 0-0-0-0, Hayes 6-5-6-17, Z. Fincher 1-0-0-3, Hazeltine 1-4-4-6, Smelko 1-0-0-2, Williams 1-0-0-3, A. Fincher 0-0-0-0, Totals 12-12-14-38
Ridgway 12 13 14 16 – 55
Eisenhower 9 15 4 10 – 38
Three-point FGs: Ridgway (2) – Allegretto 2; Eisenhower (2) – Z. Fincher, Williams