Host Rams nab spot in championship

Defense is key as Ridgewood topples Bloomingdale 52-42 in the Rotary Ram Classic.

Published December 30, 2005

NEW PORT RICHEY - In the semifinals of the William G. Hulton Jr. Rotary Ram Classic, the host Rams put forth a stellar defensive effort against a tenacious Bloomingdale squad, defeating the Bulls 52-42 to advance to the final for the eighth time in the tournament's 17-year history.

"(Bloomingdale) is an experienced team," said Rams coach Gary Anders, whose team's lone tournament victory came in 1998. "They're physical, they've got good guards, and they're a well-balanced team. I thought we matched up well and defended pretty good.

"That's something we've talked about the last few days during the holidays, that we thought going into January we would really have to pick up our defense. I thought we played pretty solidly on that end."

The Rams (11-1) spotted the Bulls (6-6) a five-point lead to start. Ridgewood, behind the play of Mirza Muratovic and Lukas Poderis, who had five points each in the quarter, responded by going on a 10-0 run to take a 13-12 lead. In the second, the Bulls rebounded with arguably their best quarter, outscoring the Rams 13-10 to take a 25-23 lead at the half.

The third quarter seemed to be the turning point, as the Rams defense turned up the pressure, and the Bulls offense turned up the mistakes. The Rams forced numerous turnovers in the paint, and held the Bulls to just one field goal (on 1-of-12 shooting) and five points.

Ridgewood again got five points each from Muratovic and Poderis to take a 37-30 lead entering the fourth. Poderis led the Rams with 15 points on 4-of-8 shooting, and Muratovic added 13. Point guard Mike Lawrence chipped in with 12, including five key free throws down the stretch.

The Bulls received a balanced offensive performance from Theo Smalling, as the senior forward scored 11 in each half. Callum Townsend added 11 points and shot 3-of-6 from 3-point range.

In the first semifinal, Plant City trailed after every quarter before outscoring Pompano Beach 15-10 in the fourth to send the game into overtime. Behind James Brown's 16 points, the Raiders outscored the Tornadoes 11-9 to earn a 69-67 victory and a place in tonight's final.

Pompano Beach's Myron Lewis led all scorers with 20 points.

Ridgewood will square off against Plant City in the finals tonight at 7:30. Bloomingdale faces Pompano Beach in a consolation game at 2.