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Rams eke out tough victory

By JAMAL THALJI, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published December 4, 2002

TRINITY -- To be honest, this is not the way Ridgewood coach Gary Anders wanted to start his season.

He didn't want his Rams to begin their Sunshine Athletic Conference title defense on the road, against one of the county's top teams. And not at neighborhood rival Mitchell, in a battle of two of the favored teams in Class 4A, District 8.

But a 49-46 victory? He'll take that.

Ridgewood gritted out a tough road win in a hostile and packed Mitchell gym Tuesday night to start the season atop the district race. The Rams are 1-0; the Mustangs 0-1.

"I think it's huge," Anders said. "I think both of us know we'll be in the running in the upper echelon of the district, so to have to go after each other the first night, it made it big, and then to win on the road, I'm really thrilled about."

Mitchell climbed back in it after an early deficit. The resilient Mustangs were down 19-10 with 3:35 left in the second quarter before taking a 28-23 lead with 6:36 left in the third.

Down 23-19 at the half, Kyle Cregan sparked Mitchell by nailing a 3-pointer to cut the lead to one with 7:14 left in the third quarter. Then freshman point guard D.J. Crosby's steal led to another bucket by Cregan and a 24-23 Mitchell lead. A Jason Weaver 3-pointer made it 28-23 with 6:01 left.

That's when Ryan McCready stepped in.

Spotty foul-shooting hampered the Rams, but McCready went 4-of-6 from the line in the third quarter and Chris Halkitis added four points as Ridgewood went on a 10-4 run to regain the lead.

There were 15 lead changes in the second half, and the Rams didn't take control for good until Halkitis' 3-pointer and Andrew Reed's layup made it 45-41 with 2:26 left.

Crosby could have tied it at the line with 29 seconds left, but missed his first free throw. The Rams held a two-point lead until Reed went 4-for-4 at the foul line to seal it.

Halkitis and Reed both scored 14. Reed had 14 rebounds and was 8-of-12 at the line. Halkitis had six rebounds and four assists. Weaver led Mitchell with 19 points, including three 3-pointers. Cregan had 13 and Crosby eight.

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