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LAND O'LAKES - A heated rivalry. A district matchup. An early-season thriller.
Ridgewood's 57-55 win over Land O'Lakes on Friday was all those things and more, adding fuel to the ever-growing fire between the teams.
"I really hate Ridgewood," Gators guard Ely Payne said after the game. "I just can't think of any other way to put it."
Both teams came in undefeated, but a late 12-6 run and defense by Rams sophomore Lukas Poderis, who had 16 points, secured the last-minute upset.
Down by two with just 8.4 seconds left, Poderis blocked a Kevin Burnell drive to the basket. While Poderis finished the game with five blocks, Land O'Lakes (4-1) got a chance for a last-second shot, but Gators leading scorer Jerome Harrison's 3-point attempt fell short. Harrison finished with 12 points.
"We were hoping to get the two (points) and then the foul," Gators coach Dave Puhalski said. "We figured if (Burnell) didn't get a shot, he'd kick it out (to the 3-point line) anyways."
Poderis' block was clutch, keeping Land O'Lakes from getting close to scoring.
"I knew that I had (the block)," Poderis said. "I just felt it and I knew it all along."
Rams coach Gary Anders said Poderis' defense has vastly improved since last season, giving Ridgewood an inside game Puhalski said "no one in the county can match."
The Rams (6-0) host the Gators later this season. For Harrison, that game can't come soon enough.
"This is our rivalry," Harrison said. "We beat them twice (last season). They beat us twice over the summer. I guess we have to go (to Ridgewood) and beat them there. I can't wait for that."