Three-pointer with less than a minute to go gives Port High victory over Ridgeway
By Bernd Franke, The Tribune
The consolation final at the 11th Tribune Girls Basketball Tournament had all the drama befitting a game won by a three-pointer in the dying seconds, and a little bit of everything else.
Saturday night’s bronze medal game in Welland started as a roller-coaster ride of emotions as first the Port High Blue Bears, 15-3; and then the Ridgeway-Crystal Beach Blue Devils, 17-6; dominated a quarter of play.
Following that were eight minutes featuring but four points from each team and after a fourth quarter that rivaled a soccer game in its almost total lack of offence. Only five points were scored, two foul shots made by Ridgeway’s Kristin Schilz; and a three from Emily Johnson to give Port High a 28-26 victory with 36.5 seconds remaining in regulation.
Also showcased in the tipoff of a championship doubleheader at Eastdale was a rematch between two single A rivals who — get this — will be back on the court facing each other when league play resumes Monday in Fort Erie.
“Maybe we should call Larry Miller (the high school basketball convener) and see if we can make this a 2-for-1 game,” Blue Bears head coach Barclay Walker quipped before an exciting, albeit low-scoring, consolation final.
Finally, each visiting team had a claim on home-court advantage: Port High, because it is one of the eight schools in The Tribune’s circulation area; the Blue Devils, because they are coached by Rob Desson, who spent about 20 years teaching at Eastdale before transferring to Ridgeway during the summer.
Ridgeway even used the south end of the court where the Eastdale Eagles sit for their home games.
“That might even be the same chair,” Desson suggested with a laugh.
Despite his team’s second loss to the Blue Bears in as many starts, he enjoyed his hoops homecoming and getting reaquainted with one-time colleagues and former students.
“It was fun coming back. It was like coming home,” said Desson, who also was pleased with his team’s performance.
“Our goal was to get to Saturday and we accomplished that.”
Desson was glad Ridgeway didn’t wind up playing Eastdale at the four-day, 16-team tournament.
“That would have been difficult for me since there are still students I know on their team,” he said.
Johnson, though recovered after hurting her knee in Wednesday’s qualifying round, was unable to get her shooting eye into focus for much of the game. Before nailing the game-winning three for Port High’s only score in the final quarter, her only appearances on the scoresheet was a three in the first quarter and two foul shots in the second.
“My shots used to go in, but sometimes I can’t tune the crowd out,” said Johnson, who nonetheless appreciated playing before a crowd predominately boosting the Bears.
Schilz attributed Ridgeway’s slow start to nerves and cold shooting in the final half and the lack of scoring, in general, to defences that refused to surrender much ground under the basket.
“We tried our hardest, but there was good defences on both sides. We kept making shots, but they weren’t falling,” she said.
Port High only beat the Blue Devils by five points in league play, so Walker didn’t take much comfort in his team’s 15-3 lead eight minutes in. Likewise, he did let Ridgeway’s strong comeback faze his team.
“I was a little nervous when that happened, but I told them I would rather have that happen sooner rather than later in the game.”
Walker could easily see the Blue Devils taking Monday’s rubber match in this season’s series against Port High.
“These teams are so close, there’s never too many points separating them. I can see them taking advantage of home court and pulling out a victory in that one,” he said