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Rams win fifth straight crown

CLASS 4A, DISTRICT 8: Ridgewood's press helps the Rams hold off Land O'Lakes for a 52-40 win.

By KEITH NIEBUHR, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 16, 2003

TRINITY -- Winning district titles has become old hat for Ridgewood, but the taste of victory hasn't gotten old.

Despite not playing their best, the Rams claimed their fifth straight district championship Saturday night, beating upset-minded Land O'Lakes 52-40 in a game that was close until midway through the fourth quarter.

Ridgewood (24-3), the top seed, finished unbeaten in district games. Third-seeded Land O' Lakes (18-8) reached the final by tripping second seed Tarpon Springs.

"They expect to win," Ridgewood coach Greg Bollinger said of his players. "They expect to play well.

"I think we had an advantage. Six or seven of our girls have played (in the district final) and they hadn't."

Ridgewood won with defense and balanced scoring.

The Rams' fullcourt pressure frustrated Land O'Lakes into several early turnovers that helped Ridgewood build a nine-point halftime lead. And on a few occasions in the second half, the Rams got key stops when the Gators threatened to make things tight.

"Our defense has gotten us easy points all year," Bollinger said.

Five Rams scored eight or more points. Point guard Crystal Ayers led the Rams with 13 points and Jen Barrett hit two 3-pointers and added 10 points. Ayers had several steals and was a defensive force throughout.

Land O'Lakes, even with its turnover problem, was a worthy opponent. The Gators closed to within 37-32 early in the fourth quarter on two Samantha Cronk free throws, but Ridgewood went on a 6-0 run to seize control. Roshaunda Washington led the Gators with 14 points.

"My girls never give up," Land O'Lakes coach Greg Robinson said. "That's the one thing they've done all year. The (turnovers) hurt us a lot. That's something we've got to work on."

The Rams will work on finding room in the case for another trophy.

"They're all special -- every single one," said Catie Mansfield, the team's only senior, "because it's a different set of girls."

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