Ridley Wings it to reach quarterfinals

RIDLEY TWP. — The recipe for Julian Wing Tuesday night was fairly simple: When Great Valley’s zone defense afforded him open looks from 3-point land, Wing didn’t give it a second thought.

“I’m just confident in my shot,’ Wing said. “I just want to keep shooting.’

Wing, who celebrated his 17th birthday in style, didn’t force the looks, but he took every bit of what the defense gave him, hitting all five of his 3-point looks en route to 21 points and a 57-40 Ridley win in the second round of the District One Class AAAA Tournament, booking the Green Raiders their first berth to states since 2013.

No. 9 seed Ridley (21-5) gets to sit on ice with a five-game winning streak in hand and await the winner of No. 17 Academy Park and No. 1 Conestoga for Friday’s quarterfinal. If it’s the top-seeded Pioneers, it would be the fourth meeting this season.

Ridley advanced courtesy of a fitting display of what it takes to be a PIAA-qualifying team. The Raiders attacked Great Valley’s zone every which way, hitting nine 3-pointers by five different players on just 13 attempts and using the threat of the deep ball to stretch the Great Valley zone’s soft spots elsewhere. When they could, they got out on the break with Brett Foster (19 points) to avoid getting sucked into the plodding pace at which the No. 25 seed Patriots prefer to play.

And when all else failed, they just hit their shots, including 14-for-17 from the line, highlighted by an 8-for-8 fourth quarter.

Still, the catalyst was the 3-pointer from Wing. When the Patriots dared him to shoot, he obliged, knocking down three in the third quarter, Ridley’s only made baskets that frame. By the time Foster and Wing started the fourth quarter with back-to-back 3s to bulge the lead to 43-34, Great Valley’s best punch had been absorbed and successfully countered.

“It helps us get rolling,’ Ridley coach Mike Snyder said of Wing’s shooting touch. “He hit the 3s tonight. They were huge 3s. They were coming back a little bit, and that kept them from getting a little bit closer, because they were making a little bit of a run.’

Some of Wing’s looks came early in the shot clock, the kinds that are bad looks only if you miss, especially while nursing a lead. He didn’t, though.

It’s the latest installment of the maturation of Wing’s game. By necessity, Wing is often drawn into the post on a vertically-challenged Ridley team, essentially playing as a power forward. He’s able to mimic the contributions of a post player — like the team-high seven rebounds and two blocks he supplied Tuesday — but he can also fire off a bullet of a pass, as he did for his four assists.

And then there’s the shooting range that has shone through lately. In his first 21 games this season, Wing canned 10 3-pointers. In his last five games, he’s drained 11.

“I just keep shooting in the offseason,’ Wing said. “I keep working on my shot, just keep shooting.’

Wing epitomizes the dynamism of the Ridley offense. They’re more than a live-by-the-3 team, even if they hit nine triples in a game for the sixth time this season. They’re not tall, but they have players who can execute near the hoop. They can shoot from every range, and their 14 assists (five from Foster) on 17 made baskets indicate just how crisply their offense can run.

“We just realized that when teams play a zone, we can shoot from outside, but we’ve just got to wait for that perfect shot,’ guard Nick Czechowicz said. “When we keep passing the ball around, the defense eventually will slip up, and we can dump it down to Justin (Dawson) or Ameer (Staggs) or something. And we made most of our shots tonight, too, so that’s helpful.’

“We just tried to move the ball,’ Staggs said. “Everyone’s confidence is high, so they shoot the ball if they’re open.’

Ridley also did a solid job defensively against a Great Valley team whose methodical, half-court style isn’t conducive to rallying from big deficits. Once Staggs, despite two first-half fouls, put the clamps on Great Valley big man Ryan Buchholz (eight points on 3-for-8 shooting) by fronting the 6-6, 240-pound Penn State defensive end signee into invisibility in the second half, Great Valley went quietly.

“I kind of realized what he wanted to do. He’s either pick-and-pop and shoot it, or do the little jab with his left,’ Staggs said. “I just try to stay on him and try to beat him to every spot he tried to get to.’

The Patriots went 5-for-10 from 3, including two makes from Mark Miller (team-high 12 points). But 12 turnovers frittered away far too many possessions for the Patriots deliberate offense to overcome.

“We knew that they were a very patient offense,’ Snyder said. “They run plays that were going to get them 3s, so we knew we were going to have to play defense for long periods of time, and that’s what they made us do, but we were able to defend successfully and then get in a flow.’

A 9-0 run sparked by a Ryan Bollinger triple put Ridley ahead midway through the second quarter, and they carried a seven-point edge into halftime.

Miller nailed a 3-pointer late in the third quarter to cut the deficit to 34-31, culminating a 7-0 Great Valley spurt. But on consecutive possessions bookending the break between quarters, Wing, Foster, then Wing again knocked down 3s. That cued a 12-3 start to the fourth, meaning the 8-1 run on which the Green Raiders concluded the game was just for emphasis on their well-established states credentials.

“Luckily we’ve got some speed, some shooters, rebounders, everything,’ Czechowicz said. “I know we lack a little bit height-wise, but our heart really makes up for it, in all aspects of the game.’

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