Conestoga doesn’t get tip-in as time expires; Ridley upsets Pioneers to advance

TREDYFFRIN — District playoff games in the Class AAAA bracket have a knack for being intense, frenetic contests that sap everything out of the players, coaches and fans.

Friday night at a packed and raucous Conestoga High School, twofold friends, the top-seeded Pioneers and No. 8 Ridley went at each other like a pack of rabid dogs going after fresh meat.

And the game was not decided until the final buzzer as controversy reigned. Ridley got a layup from Ameer Staggs with with 8.6 seconds to play to take a two point lead.

But Conestoga was not done.

Daryl caldwell came out of a timeout and drove the lane, passed to Martin Dorsey under the basket. Dorsey missed in tight and then Dan Vila put in a follow but the officials ruled that time expired and the Green Raiders won a thriller, 36-34 over the Pioneers.

Ridley will now head to Temple University on Wednesday night to take on Plymouth-Whitemarsh in the District 1 Class AAAA semifinals while Conestoga will go to the playback bracket and host Lower Merion on Tuesday night.

“Daryl had a lot of options coming out of the timeout,’ Conestoga coach Mike Troy said. “He could have shot the ball, passed it, or drive to the basket. He passed it to Martin who missed in tight and then Dan Vial puts in a tip to tie the game with .2 seconds to play but for some reason it was waved off and Ridley won.

“We will take a day to regroup and then get our focus back and try to win some games to get the highest seed we can get for the state tournament. My kids played extremely hard tonight and it is tough to lose a game when a tip with .2 seconds to play gets waved off.’

Ridley (22-5) took a 19-13 halftime edge on the Pioneers (22-4) as Stoga shot a horrid 3-for-21 in the first half. Brett Foster led the Green Raiders with seven first half points, but he only ended up with nine for the game.

The Pioneers were a different team in the third period.

Conestoga scored on its first five possessions and went on an 11-2 run to take a slim 28-27 lead after three periods. The Pioneers outscored Ridley 15-8 in the quarter and sent the packed gymnasium into a frenzy. Conestoga started to penetrate to the basket and make good interior passes.

“We talked at halftime about attacking the basket offensively and the kids did a great job of doing that after halftime,’ Troy said.

But, Ridley did not die easily.

The Green Raiders outscored Conestoga 9-6 in the fourth. Conestoga took only four shots in the period as both teams were very deliberate on offense. When Julian Wing drained a three-ball with 2:08 to play, Ridley took a 34-32 lead.

An alley oop to Vila went out of bounds and the Green Raiders looked in good shape at that point. On Ridley’s next possession, James Vanderventer stripped foster and scored on a layup to tie the game at 34-34 with 53 seconds to play.

Ridley called timeout with 25 seconds left and then got a break that won the game. Nick Czechowicz took the inbounds pass, dribbled down the left side and hilt a wide open Staggs under the basket for a layup and a 36-34 lead with 8.6 seconds to play.

“I just wanted to get the ball for a good shot,’ Czechowicz said. “I saw their big man come out and I saw Ameer wide open under the basket and i just hit him. This is an awesome feeling to bet them in the Central League championship and then come win here and beat them again.’

Ridley coach Mike Snyder gave all the credit to his kids for the win.

“We could not communicate with the kids because it was so loud,’ Snyder said. “They were on their own and Nick made a great play. We wanted the last shot or a layup and we got a layup. What a great game. The kids hung in there when Conestoga made that 11-2 run and they came out with the win.’

The ending was controversial as Vila’s tip in was questioned by Troy and many in the crowd but the Pioneers’ Andrew Diehl, who tied with Dorsey for a team-high 11 points to go along with nine rebounds, said it should not have come down to the end.

“I do not know if there was any time left or not,’ Diehl said. “But we cannot rely on that. we had our chances earlier to win the game. We now have to get ready for states and come back strong.’

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