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Despite star power, Rams have some growing up to do

By Izzy Gould
Published January 11, 2007


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NEW PORT RICHEY - Gary Anders couldn't wait to strap on his party hat and count the final seconds when that huge sparkling ball in Times Square would light up 2007.

The new calendar year was a great excuse for Ridgewood's longtime coach to broach the subject of maturity with his locker room full of impressionable teenagers.

The final days of December were disastrous for Ridgewood hoops. After eight wins to start the season the Rams lost three games in seven days, all to Pinellas County schools. Shooting cooled off at the worst times and their heads were anywhere but in games.

Yes, Anders is concerned about arguably the county's most talented roster despite a 12-3 record and leg up on the Sunshine Athletic Conference title chase. A win tonight against Pasco could earn the Rams - at the minimum - a share of the SAC title.

"I have been concerned for the past two and a half months," Anders said. "We've done an awful lot of good things. By the same token we'll go 180 degrees and do a lot of bad things. It's that inconsistency that concerns me."

Pasco usually presents a challenge, but can the Pirates shake off a 67-62 loss to Nature Coast on Tuesday? The Pirates scored just two points in the fourth quarter and couldn't take advantage of Joe Silvestri's absence, the Sharks' star player sidelined with a broken collarbone.

Ridgewood expects Pasco's best shot. "They're always good and quick," Rams guard Mike Lawrence said. "They beat Wesley Chapel."

The question then becomes can the Rams stay mentally focused on regular-season games instead of looking ahead to the district tournament?

Lawrence, who leads the Rams in scoring with 15.4 points per game, did not dismiss the idea that Ridgewood sometimes gets caught up in the hype of being the county's ace. He didn't scoff at the suggestion the Rams sometimes get bored in the regular season. Perhaps Anders' message has gotten through.

"We have a new mind-set," Lawrence said. "We have to learn from the losses. ...We want to be good in the postseason. We want to get there faster than we play all these games. We want the conference title. We're going to bring it."

Anders is reserved in his prediction of how Ridgewood will do come district tournament time. And if the Rams fail to meet expectations he certainly will shoulder some of the blame.

So far, the Rams have won two straight to begin the new year.

"Maybe I was wrong to think we would automatically be more mature and things would go a little easier," Anders said. "There's no question in my mind they're capable of doing good things. It's just holding the focus and gaining some maturity to where we become more consistent."

Izzy Gould can be reached at igould@sptimes.com or (727) 580-5315.

Pasco at Ridgewood

When: 7:30 tonight

At stake: Ridgewood could guarantee at the minimum a share of the Sunshine Athletic Conference title with a victory over Pasco.

[Last modified January 10, 2007, 21:49:23]


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