Rams claim boys varsity title

Published 11:25 am Tuesday, December 5, 2017

AHOSKIE – For two straight years the Ridgecroft School varsity boys basketball team had seen the Lt. Nick Brantley Scholarship Tournament title within their grasp, only to have it slip away.

They weren’t going to let it happen a third time.  They were also facing a Pungo Christian Academy team that was making its second Brantley finals appearance in three years.

Much as they had the previous times, the Rams raced to an early lead.  Pungo landed the first jab for a 2-0 lead before Ridgecroft rattled off 10 in a row.  But half those points came at the free throw line where the Rams were five-of-six. A three-point play and a lay-up pulled the Raiders closer before Dawson Rose, who had nine points in the quarter, nailed a short jumper for a 15-7 Rams lead after the first.

Ridgecroft School’s Dawson Rose (#14) makes like Michael Jordan (with his tongue showing) as he splits a pair of Pungo Christian Academy defenders for a lay-up in Saturday’s varsity boys championship game of the Lt. Nick Brantley Memorial Scholarship Tournament. Rose scored 14 points and was named Tournament MVP as the Rams won 57-51. | Photo by William Anthony Photography

Pungo caught up quickly in the second quarter as the Rams shooting went cold. A pair of three-pointers was the only field goals Ridgecroft could muster, but they continued to hit from the charity stripe, making four-of-six foul shots.  Still, Pungo put up 22 points in the frame, tying the game with less than two-and-a-half minutes left at 20-20. Then they took their first lead since the opening shot with 1:15 left before the break at 24-22.  They upped that lead to four at the mid-break, 29-25.

Whatever Rams coach Kris Khan said at halftime – it worked.  Not only did the Rams turn up the defensive pressure, they re-discovered their shooting touch. Three straight transition lay-ups knotted the game at 31-31 less than three minutes into the third.  Pungo hit a jump shot to re-take the lead before Wyatt Liverman – playing hard-nosed like the US Marine he will one day become – nailed a three-pointer at 4:15.  A succession of triples gave the Rams some cushion, and a five-point lead, 42-37, headed to the last quarter.

A couple more treys by Liverman and Blake Birdsong gave the Rams an 11-point lead, 50-39, which they equaled a little later, 54-43, on a Drew Davis lay-up. It would be the Rams’ last score from the floor, as they closed out the last three-and-a-half minutes making their foul shots for six-point win, and their first Brantley title in six years.  It was also great way to honor their former schoolmate, the tournament namesake and fallen U.S. Navy airman.

“Defense, just say it was our defense,” said Khan afterward. “We kept the pressure on.”

The Rams return to Tarheel Independent Conference play tonight (Tuesday) on the road in Merry Hill against Lawrence Academy.

Varsity Boys All-Tournament Team: Dawson Rose (MVP), Blake Birdsong, Wyatt Liverman (Ridgecroft), Ryan Bishop, Cameron Howell, and Ben Simmons (Pungo).


Wyatt Liverman-18, Dawson Rose-14, Blake Birdsong-12, Drew Davis-7, Grayson Joyner-4, Cade Harrell-2.

PUNGO BOYS    (51)

Ryan Bishop-15, Cameron Howell-13, Nate Vanstaalduinen-6, Ben Simmons-6, Chandler Cuthrell-5, Miller O’Neal-2, Brent Benson-2, Albert Ruiz-2.