© St. Petersburg Times, published December 29, 2002
NEW PORT RICHEY -- Ridgewood's reward for its 10th consecutive victory is a berth in the William G. Hulton Jr. Rotary Ram Classic final.
The host Rams (10-0) defeated Boyle County (Danville, Ky.) 80-59 Saturday to qualify for their seventh final.
Their lone championship came in 1998.
Ridgewood plays Durant (4-4), a 65-44 winner against Homestead South Dade, in Monday's title game at 7:15 p.m. The consolation game is at 5:30.
The Rams and Rebels (5-2) had their share of runs but were tied 12-12 after the first quarter and 32-32 at halftime.
Andrew Reed took over early in the second half.
The senior center scored 12 of his 21 points during the third quarter as the Rams outscored the Rebels 22-13. "We told the whole team that we thought we needed to get the ball inside more," Ridgewood coach Gary Anders said. "We wanted to try to get the ball to the basket."
In the first half, both teams relied primarily on outside shooting with Ridgewood's Chris Halkitis draining four 3-pointers and Boyle County's Jacob Tamme hitting three.
Halkitis scored a game-high 25 points and finished with five 3-pointers. Tamme made four.
"We said at halftime that this was going to be a game of runs, and the first half proved that," Anders said. "That's what happens when you play an up-tempo game like (Boyle County does)."
Like most teams that press relentlessly, the Rebels got in foul trouble. Josh Slone and Derek Vonckx fouled out, and the Rams got plenty of chances at the free-throw line.
Ridgewood converted 29 of 36 foul shots with Halkitis 10-for-10. Ridgewood's Nate Bradley, recovered from a broken leg sustained in a hit-and-run car crash in September, played in his second straight game.
A night after playing the final 10 seconds, Bradley came off the bench during the last minute of the first quarter to hit a jump shot in the lane (for his only points) that tied the score at 12.
"I wanted to see how he would react in that situation," Anders said. "It was the heat of the battle, but it wasn't the determining minutes of the ballgame.
"It whet his appetite."