By JAMAL THALJI
© St. Petersburg Times,
published November 30, 2001
NEW PORT RICHEY -- There's no place like home -- the Rams' home, that is.
Ridgewood feasted on yet another foe at home Thursday night, dismantling Pasco 57-37 in a hard-fought Sunshine Athletic Conference contest between unbeatens.
"You can't lose on your home court," Ridgewood point guard Crystal Ayers said. "I love it (here). You can never get beat on your home court."
No, but you can get bruised and beaten up there, as both teams discovered in a second half that at times resembled a rugby scrum each time players got tangled up and fell hard to the floor.
One Ridgewood player went to the hospital, and both teams left the Rams' gym bruised -- and not just physically.
Rams coach Gary Zimmerman was especially unhappy in the second half. He wanted technical fouls called in two incidents when his Ridgewood players hit the floor underneath the basket after a Pasco player got too close for comfort in an attempt to block a shot.
Joeyn Dearsman went down hard in the first incident, fouled by Pasco's Arkeshia Manor, who reached from behind Dearsman as she attempted a layup.
Dearsman later coughed up blood and left the gym for the hospital. Ayers went down when Pasco's Alicia Badger fouled her in the lane to prevent a layup.
"They're aggressive," Zimmerman said of Pasco. "We battled and we got a lot of bruises and cuts and bumps.
"What the officials see, the coaches see it differently."
Pasco coach Tony Vasquez said in both instances the contact was incidental and his players were going after the ball.
"(Badger) was trying to block the shot, I don't think it was intentional," Vasquez said. "Alicia's not that type of player. Manor was trying to block the shot from behind. (Zimmerman is) a little upset about it, but I assured him I don't coach like that and I know she doesn't play like that.
"It was incidental contact. When you leave your feet, you can't stop in midair."
The only thing that wasn't controversial was the outcome: from start to finish, Ridgewood dominated, leading by as much as 23.
Ayers scored 19 points, including 12 in the first half, and Rachel Rauber chipped in 17. The Rams' defense held fast against the Pirates' leading scorers, holding Badger to 15 -- six in the second half -- and Davis to 12.
Ridgewood took a 16-13 first-quarter lead, then ran that advantage to 33-21 by halftime.
It was just the start. Pasco was outscored 18-9 in the third, and the Pirates didn't help themselves by shooting 4 of 15 from the free-throw line.
The Rams hit 12 of 22 free throws. Ridgewood didn't even need its vaunted 3-point shooters to win. Dearsman, Ayers and Rauber all sank just a trey apiece.
Pasco fell to 3-1 and lost for the first time this season in this non-district meeting, while Ridgewood improved to 3-0.
The Rams finish up a tough week, after beating district rival Mitchell on the road and SAC rival Pasco, tonight they play a key Class 4A, District 8 clash at home against Tarpon Springs.
"We've been preparing for quite a while for this situation," Zimmerman said. "Because we knew what the schedule would be. We played terrible the other night against Mitchell, and tonight we definitely played much better.
"Home court: We like that."