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Ridgecroft wins TIC title

AHOSKIE – With emphasis.

Second seed Ridgecroft School not only scored an upset in knocking off top-seed, Hobgood Academy, to win the Tarheel Independent Conference Tournament championship with a 66-53 victory; they also held TIC Player of the Year  Sha’he Morning scoreless for the entire contest.

And speaking of scoring, the Rams did it with the “Iron Five.”  Their only points came from their starters led by a 22-point performance from Julien Becker, 18 more from Austin Foster and 13 from Michael Byrum.

Jordan Harrell scored seven and Max Boone had six to round out the Ridgecroft scoring.

Mical Farmer had 16 for Hobgood before fouling out. Eric Josey added a dozen and Greg Mullens had 11.

“We felt like we had something to prove,” said an emotional Rams coach Chris Hill after the game.  “We felt in neither of those other games (both losses) did they get our best; and we knew it would take a 100 percent effort from every guy on the team.

‘I’ve never seen these guys want anything more, besides that soccer state championship,” he added. “And they transitioned straight from that to basketball.”

With many of these same players Ridgecroft won the independent schools’ state soccer championship back in November.

The Rams leapt on the Raiders early and never let up, leading the entire contest. They roared out to a 10-point first quarter lead, got it up to as many as 19 and then held off any chance of a Hobgood comeback.

The closest the Raiders could ever come was seven points down.

It was also an extremely physical contest as each team fought for control both on the wings and in the post.  There were 28 fouls were whistled, 18 on the Raiders.

“At this point in the season, you can’t nitpick on the calls and let the referees dictate the outcome,” Hill said. “I thought they called it very fair.”

Ridgecroft scored the first two points of the game and never looked back: a pair of Foster free throws were followed by a Boone layup, a Byrum jump shot, and another layup in the lane from Becker made it 8-1.

After Foster got another layup from the Rams attacking the Raiders’ middle and Byrum raining in a three-point shot from behind the crooked line, it soon ballooned to 13-3.

Becker then got free from the Raider defense and dropped a pair of three-pointers before Farmer got a Hobgood layup and then the horn sounded and a 19-6 Ridgecroft lead.

Farmer continued the Hobgood scoring as the second quarter began with a layup and a free throw that got it back to 10, 19-9.  But Boone came back for the Rams with a layup in what would be a low-scoring eight minutes.

John Harrell got a three for the Raiders before Ridgecroft scored six uncontested. Foster added a steal and layup, Becker fired in a short jump shot and Harrell banked in a long three-pointer.

Again, Hobgood got the last field goal of the quarter, but were doubled up by the Rams at the midway point, 28-14, as the two teams entered the locker-room.

The third quarter featured more scoring from both teams. Hobgood put together a run and came their closest of the game since the early going as they made it 36-27.

Becker broke Ridgecroft’s four minute scoring drought with a three pointer that ignited a 9-0 Ridgecroft run

Boone later got a steal and layup followed by the same thing from Byrum, and Foster closed it out with  mid-range jump shot making it 45-28 entering the fourth quarter.

Ridgecroft opened the fourth making 3-of-5 free throws.  A little later, they dropped another foul shot sandwiched between a pair of layups from Foster.  Hobgood began to heat up, scoring on six straight possessions, but it was too little too late.

Farmer got a layup to get the Raiders within 10, 58-48, with under two minutes to play, but he fouled out on the next play.

Ridgecroft’s only scoring came from going 5-for 8 from the charity stripe and a trio of Foster backdoor layups, the last of which made for the final score.

“We couldn’t simulate the kind of defense we saw tonight in practice,” said Hobgood coach Joe McDowell, shaking his head.

“They shot well and we didn’t,” he shrugged.  =”It was just an uphill fight all night.”

Both teams now enter the NC Independent Schools Athletic Association upcoming play-offs.

“When we get on a run like tonight,” said Hill, “we’re hard to stop; and playing like that, I’m not afraid to play anybody.”