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By JOHN C. COTEY
© St. Petersburg Times, published January 31, 2001
HUDSON -- Doreen Grote could not have been more conflicted.
Should she be happy her Hudson team rallied from a huge deficit to make a game of it against powerhouse Ridgewood, playing much better than it had in the teams' first meeting? Or should she be upset because her team outplayed the Rams in the second half but could not make up for one dreadful span? "I don't know," an obviously disappointed Grote said. "I have mixed emotions."
Not the Rams, who seemed quite pleased after surviving Hudson in the Cobras' gymnasium and clinching the Sunshine Athletic Conference title for the second consecutive season after the 62-51 win Tuesday night, their sixth in a row. The Rams (19-4 overall, 14-0 in the SAC) have not lost a SAC game during the past two seasons, stretching their win streak to 28. They have two SAC games left this season.
The loss ended Hudson's nine-game winning streak, the longest in Grote's 12 seasons.
Ridgewood was outscored in the third and fourth quarters -- the first time this season a Pasco County team has done that -- but pulled out the win with free-throw shooting and superior rebounding. The game was much closer, however, than the 49-17 Ridgewood win on Dec. 6.
"I don't mind (a close game)," Ridgewood coach Gary Zimmerman said. "But I'd rather it be close where we play well, not when we give the other team so many opportunities."
Hudson had its chances. It pulled within 10 on Jen Barrett's three-pointer with 4:55 left in the game but then missed its next seven free throws when it had a golden opportunity to get the lead to single digits.
Ridgewood, meanwhile, made 7 of 8 free throws during that same stretch to keep the lead safe.
"The girls played their hearts out," Grote said. "But when you dig yourself a hole like we did against a team like Ridgewood, it's awfully tough to get out of it."
That hole was dug in the second quarter, when Ridgewood outscored Hudson 25-5. In their first meeting, Ridgewood used a 29-point run to bury Hudson. Tuesday, it scored 21 in a row to wipe out a 15-13 Hudson lead. The Cobras (15-5, 12-3) shot just 1-of-15 in the quarter, missing their last 13 shots. The Rams made 8 of 16 shots and converted 7 of 9 free throws. Jen Sessa and Alayna Sherwood were wide open inside on several breaks down the court, and six Rams scored.
In response, the Cobras panicked and hurried a slew of ill-advised shots. "We had a mental lapse," Grote said.
Barrett and Nicole Warder scored all but seven of Hudson's points and rallied them by scoring 30 of the team's 34 second-half points. Warder finished with 24 points (19 in the second half), and Barrett scored 20.
Sherwood led Ridgewood with 19. Meagan Keane and Rachel Rauber had nine.