• 73°

Rams finish second

RALEIGH – It’s the goal of every team.

On the first day of practice, everyone talks about it.

This year, Ridgecroft School lived the dream.

The Lady Rams, who sat 9-10 at one point in the season, won 11 of their final 14 games and, in the process, earned a bid to the North Carolina Independent School Athletic Association 1-A state championship game.

“I love them. I couldn’t have asked for more from them,” Lady Rams’ coach Elton Winslow said. “When we (Winslow and Doug Cobbs) took over in January, my expectation was to work hard and get better every day and we did.

“I never in my wildest dreams thought we would be playing for a state championship,” he added. “Everyone aspires to that, but so many things have to come together for you to do that.”

Seeded seventh in the 1-A tournament, the Lady Rams opened up the championships with a home game against Kerr-Vance Academy.

After defeating the Lady Crusaders, Ridgecroft advanced to the quarterfinal round and squared off with three-time defending champion Gaston Day School. That contest, held at Cary Academy, saw the Lady Rams lead throughout and come away with a 45-42 win.

In the state semifinal, Ridgecroft was paired with Tarheel Independent Conference regular-season champion Terra Ceia Christian School, who they had beaten a week earlier in the tournament semifinals.

This time, the Lady Rams pulled out a 59-50 win and punched their ticket to the state finals and a date with top-ranked Trinity Christian.

Trinity was able to turn several early turnovers into quick points in the state championship game, held Saturday at Ravenscroft School, and built a working margin. They went on to win 69-47.

“They’re big, talented, quick and deep,” Winslow said of Trinity. “Early in the ball game, we turned the ball over because we tried to make passes we could against other teams, but they were quicker and did a better job of anticipating.

“They did a good job of getting steals and turning them into points and built a working margin,” he said.

Twice in the second quarter, the Lady Rams were able to cut the lead to 11, but neither time were they able to get closer.

“We cut it to 11 and had the ball, but we missed the shot and they scored and were able to run it back to 17 at the half,” Winslow said. “That may have been when we hit the wall.”

The coach said his team give as much effort as he could have hoped for in the three days of the tournament, but with only seven players, they were wearing down Saturday.

“We didn’t seem to have the same energy late in the first half and in the second,” he said. “I don’t know if fresh legs would have allowed us to win because they were very talented, but we could have made it an interesting game.

“If we were close down the stretch, who knows,” he said.

Ridgecroft was led by senior Hayes Bryant’s 22 points and April Piland’s 13. Jessica Bolton and Emily Cooke scored five each while Tayler Smith added two points.

CeCe Williams led all scorers with 27 points while Willetta McIntyre had 10.

Trinity (69): CeCe Williams n 27, Willetta McIntyre n 10, Brittany Torain n 8, Keianna Evans n 5, Amber Whitaker n 5, Shayla Cole n 4, Dominique Williams n 4, Shaunetta Andrews n 2, Tasha Acoff n 2, Shakera Haynes n 2

Ridgecroft (47): Hayes Bryant n 22, April Piland n 13, Jessica Bolton n 5, Emily Cooke n 5, Tayler Smith – 2