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Northeast edges Ridgecroft

AHOSKIE – There was no questioning the effort.

Both Northeast Academy and Ridgecroft School got the best out of their varsity boys’ basketball teams Tuesday night.

The two teams locked in a battle that took an extra session to resolve with Northeast eventually edging Ridgecroft 69-67.

“As well as Ridgecroft played, it’s a shame they got beat because they out-played us tonight,” Northeast Head Coach John Brown said afterwards. “We were fortunate to get a win.”

Rams’ interim coach Nathan Dilday was equally complimentary to his opponent.

“Hats off to Northeast,” he said. “We took a lead in the third quarter and they could have folded, but John kept the boys in there. They had a few more players and made a few more plays.”

The fourth quarter ended with the game knotted at 65-all thanks to freshman Austin Britton burying two free throws for Ridgecroft with 27 seconds left on the clock.

As they entered the overtime session, each team was without key players. Northeast lost Judd Smith and Josh Jenkins to fouls in the fourth quarter while Ridgecroft’s Logan Kinlaw and Ethan Phelps suffered the same fate.

With each team exhausted and in foul trouble, Brown decided to hold the basketball when the Eagles won the overtime tip. They moved the ball around the perimeter more than two minutes before the coach called timeout to set up the play.

“We didn’t have a choice when they went into the stall,” Dilday said. “We were tired and had too many fouls to try to force something. We made some adjustments during the timeout to put on some token pressure.”

The pressure worked and the Rams got the ball back with the game still tied. Britton gave his team the lead with a layup at the 1:20 mark.

Brandon Futrell tied the game 21 seconds later and then, after a turnover, the Eagles took the lead for good when John Pope drove the lane after getting a rebound from his own missed shot. His score with six seconds left sealed the win.

Dilday got a timeout with five ticks left on the clock, but the Rams didn’t get off a shot to tie or win the game.

Despite the loss, Dilday was pleased with what his team gave him.

“I couldn’t have asked for a better performance,” Dilday said. “If you want to see the true meaning of team basketball that was it.”

Dilday mentioned how pleased he was, especially considering the Rams were missing two starters for disciplinary reasons.

“We were down two starters and everyone came out and contributed,” he said. “It wasn’t one player, but every one of them. It is tough to lose like that, but I can’t be more proud of the whole team.”

Ridgecroft came out early firing, taking a 9-2 lead thanks to buckets by Kinlaw and Britton as well as a hoop from Dillon Lowe.

They were able to hold that lead through the first period and took a 20-14 advantage into the second quarter.

“I think part of our problem was we missed a lay-up right out of the gate and then a couple of other easy shots and we put too much pressure on ourselves,” Brown said. “The second half we got more into our game and ran more, but we still missed too many easy shots.”

Northeast tried to rally in the second quarter, but the Rams were able to keep up their pressure and held a 38-28 halftime advantage.

Ridgecroft held the same lead with under a minute to play in the third quarter, but Jenkins scored with 39 ticks on the clock to get the Eagles within eight (51-43).

The Eagles scored the first four points of the fourth quarter on back-to-back buckets from Pope and continued to pull closer to the Rams.

Northeast tied the game at 59-all with 2:12 to play, but Ridgecroft went back in front on a pair of free throws from Neal Howard.

Northeast was able to take the lead on a hoop by Jay Baugham and a free throw from Pope, but Britton tied the score with his free throws.

Pope was a dominating force for Northeast in the second half, scoring 14 points in the third and fourth quarters to help the Eagles’ comeback efforts.

“They were packed in and we had to loosen their zone,” Brown said. “John was able to do that with his outside shots which opened things up inside. It also helped spark us on defense.

“John had a similar game for us against Lawrence,” he added. “We just need him to get going from the beginning of the game.”

Pope led the Eagles with 28 points while Jenkins had 13 and Jud Smith added 12. Britton and Howard led Ridgecroft with 16 each.

Northeast (69): John Pope n 28, Josh Jenkins n 13, Jud Smith n 11, Jeremy Parker n 7, Brandon Futrell n 6, Jay Baugham n 4

Ridgecroft (67): Austin Britton n 16, Neal Howard n 16, Cade Larabee n 13, Logan Kinlaw n 9, Miles Newbern n 6, Dillon Lowe n 4, Ethan Phelps – 3