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Stevens lifts Lawrence

MERRY HILL – It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.

Ridgecroft School and Lawrence Academy found out how true that statement is in three meetings this year.

In two Tarheel Independent Conference contests and one meeting in the Lt. Nick Brantley Scholarship Tournament, Lawrence has claimed a 2-1 split against their arch rivals. In each of those meetings, the team leading at the end of the first quarter lost the basketball game.

“It’s just ironic, but it happened in all three games,” Lawrence Head Coach Tommy Tripp said. “Tonight we just continued to give effort and were able to get the last one to drop.”

The last one was Shane Stevens’ three-pointer with under four seconds to play that was the difference in the Warriors’ 64-61 win in the varsity boys’ basketball game.

Lawrence trailed Ridgecroft 18-10 after the first quarter, but two late surges helped them take the lead with 47 seconds to play on a bucket and a free throw by Holden Ratzlaff.

Ridgecroft tied the game on an Austin Britton free throw with 21 ticks left on the clock.

“We wanted to take the best shot we had, but do it as time was almost gone,” Tripp said. “We didn’t want to give Ridgecroft another chance. We were either going to win or go to overtime.”

The Warriors worked the ball around until Stevens was open with four seconds to play and buried the triple to propel the Warriors to the win.

Another irony is that Ridgecroft coach Tim Boone said Stevens was exactly who the Rams wanted to stop.

“We know that Shane can hurt you, so we wanted to focus our defense on him,” Boone said. “We were able to frustrate him a little in the fourth quarter, but he got a good look and made the shot.”

Ridgecroft jumped out to the first quarter lead when Dillon Lowe connected on two early hoops and Josh Morris and James Taylor also scored to make it 9-0.

Lawrence came back with a hoop from Ratzlaff and two free throws each from Stevens and Daniel Oliver to get within 9-6.

The teams each scored multiple hoops over the next three minutes to end up with the 18-10 Ridgecroft lead.

Neither team could pull away from the other in the first two minutes of the second period, but Lawrence went on an 8-2 spurt midway through the quarter.

Oliver paced the spurt with four points while Dillon Ralph and Chad Oliver also scored to get the Warriors within 26-22 with 2:36 to play.

From there, however, Morris scored five points and Neal Howard scored twice to give Ridgecroft a comfortable 35-24 lead at the intermission.

Ridgecroft opened the third quarter with a three-pointer by Britton, but Lawrence senior Joe Harrell led a Warrior comeback by scoring eight points in the opening three and a half minutes of the period to get Lawrence within 41-33.

Ridgecroft again put together a spurt with scores from Britton and Morris to lead 46-35 with 2:48 to go in the quarter.

Lawrence was able to close the gap to eight (49-41) by the end of the third quarter thanks to a Harrell three-pointer and two Ratzlaff free throws.

Harrell started the fourth quarter with a hoop and then Ratzlaff scored seconds later after a Daniel Oliver block at the other end of the court.

A technical foul assessed to Morris early in the contest came back to haunt the Rams when he fouled out with 6:34 to play in the contest

After that, the Warriors went on a 9-4 run to close within 55-53 with 3:33 to play.

Ridgecroft kept the lead by sinking 4-of-6 from the line and getting a bucket by Lowe, but Lawrence closed back within two on two Ralph free throws with 1:24 to play in the game. That set up the late flourish that led to the Lawrence win.

“I’m pleased with the way we played,” Boone said. “We gave it a good effort and just come up short.”