Ridgewood's Andrew Reed is dominating inside, and Central's Alex Ruoff can play in the paint or on the perimeter.
By GREG AUMAN
Published February 26, 2004
NEW PORT RICHEY - Ridgewood's Andrew Reed and Central's Alex Ruoff will lead their teams against each other in Thursday's regional quarterfinal. The question is whether the two standouts will line up against each other, or simply battle on the scoreboard.
Reed is a 6-foot-7 senior center and dominant post presence, headed to East Tennessee State. Ruoff is a 6-61/2 junior who plays more as a versatile forward, equally dangerous with his size inside or his range on the perimeter. Only one will advance from the 7 p.m. tipoff to next week's region semifinals.
"A lot of it depends on where (Ruoff) is out on the floor," Rams coach Gary Anders said. "If he plays a lot of guard, I don't think I'm going to have Andrew chasing him all over the place."
The Rams (21-5) and Bears (18-10) played twice last summer, with Ridgewood winning both meetings, including the league championship game. Central coach John Sedlack said Reed stepped out to guard Ruoff in those games, but he isn't expecting the same treatment Thursday.
"I don't think Gary's going to do that this time, because you don't want to waste Reed's fouls on Alex outside," he said. "It's inside where Reed really kills you. He can hit that medium jumper, he runs the floor so well, but he's just a monster on the glass, and that's something we've got to contend with."
Central will have 6-foot-6 Anthony Wright inside, trying to limit Reed's rebounding prowess. That hasn't been easy lately, as Reed had 20 rebounds ( and 30 points) in a district semifinal win against Gulf. He had 13 rebounds in the championship win Saturday against Wesley Chapel.
Ruoff will have a sizeable advantage on Ridgewood's guards, including 6-foot Brendan Geronimo, the Rams' best shutdown defender. Ruoff led Hernando County with 21.9 points and 4.2 assists and was third with nine rebounds, so stopping him is paramount.
"When people put smaller, quicker guys on him, we can move him out front, where it's hard to deal with him, and if you double up on him, he's good at finding free people with the ball," Sedlack said. "We've got our work cut out for us with Reed, but they have their hands full with Alex."
Both teams have exceeded their preseason expectations, with Ridgewood graduating five seniors from last year's regional finalists and Central overcoming the loss of several players to first-year Nature Coast Tech and the transfer of star Kyle Swanston to Hernando.
"Everybody thought we were going to be absolutely brutal, but we foiled everybody's plans," said Sedlack, who is in the playoffs for the first time since 2000. "Really, honestly, we've had what I consider an outstanding year."
Reed and Geronimo were the only returning starters for the Rams, who have five other seniors who bring leadership but also the enthusiasm of players in their first season as major contributors. Anders said it would have been easy for this team to be lost in the shadow of last year's success, but these Rams have emerged with their own identity.
"This is really sweet, because this group, you could easily call them an afterthought," said Anders, who won his fourth district title in 17 seasons at Ridgewood. "They've gone out and made their own little niche, and I'm just happy for these kids to be a part of it."