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Boys basketball: Every game is serious business
For teams like Ridgewood with postseason aspirations, every game is serious business.
By DAVID MURPHY
Published November 21, 2007
NEW PORT RICHEY - As conventional wisdom goes, Clearwater coach Jack Coit and Ridgewood coach Gary Anders employed none last week when the Tornadoes traveled up U.S. 19 to take on the Rams. Normally a time to work out kinks, solidify depth charts and work younger players onto the court, the preseason game instead turned into a battle royal between teams looking to establish themselves as state title contenders.
By the time Mike Lawrence's desperation layup floated into the basket with 1.5 seconds remaining, sending the Rams to a two-point lead and Lawrence to the free-throw line to provide the final 70-67 margin, the crowd at Ridgewood High was in a frenzy.
"I think we both looked at it, as the game unfolded, as a great opportunity," said Anders, entering his 21st season at Ridgewood.
Opportunity is the perfect word with which to label this Rams team. With four of five starters returning from a squad that lost to eventual state champion Lake Howell in the region semifinals last season, Ridgewood feels like it has as good a shot as any at its first state title.
Lawrence, a 5-foot-9 point guard who makes up for his diminutive stature with his ballhandling and grit, anchors a team that also features 6-foot-8 junior Lukas Poderis and shifty junior guard Alvin Satram, who scored 16 in the preseason win over Clearwater.
"Our expectations were high at the beginning," Lawrence said after the win over the Tornadoes, "and they're still high."
Ridgewood went 25-4 last season, outscoring opponents by 20 points per game. The Rams went 19-0 against competition from Pasco and Hernando counties and were undefeated in nontournament games.
Though it lacks a superstar like Clearwater's Luke Loucks or Adam Pegg - both of whom have committed to Division I schools - Ridgewood seems to have the chemistry more talented teams lack.
"I think they're a year older, more mature, more physical," said Mitchell coach Larry Holden, whose Mustangs lost to Ridgewood 64-18 Monday night in both teams' season opener. "I think that has something to do with it."
Anders will know a lot more about his squad in three weeks, when Ridgewood has a re-match against Clearwater in the Bright House Networks Invitational hosted by the Tornadoes. This time, the result will count toward both teams' regular-season records, in addition to their postseason aspirations.