Ridley takes controversial win over Conestoga at wire

TREDYFFRIN — It’s going to take a fifth game, possibly in the state tournament, for Ridley and Conestoga to settle their score.

Right now the better team is the Green Raiders, who Friday night survived a controversial finish to defeat the Pioneers, 36-34, in the quarterfinal round of the Class AAAA District One basketball tournament.

The ninth-seeded Green Raiders (22-5) take on Plymouth Whitemarsh in the semifinals Wednesday night at Temple University.

The top-seeded Pioneers (22-4) get Lower Merion in the consolation round.

Both games determine seeding in the state tourney.

Though the season series between Ridley and Conestoga is even, the Green Raiders have prevailed in the last two games, including the Central League title game. They controlled the first half of the quarterfinal and were up to the task of rallying down the homestretch to pull it off.

“Seeding doesn’t matter,’ Brett Foster, who scored nine points for the Green Raiders said. “If we play hard and we play our game we’ve got a good chance of winning.’ The Pioneers did not go quietly. They made a case that the quarterfinal should have gone to overtime.

With the game tied and time running out there was a furious scrum beneath the Pioneers’ goal. After a couple of misses Daniel Vila tapped the ball in. The horn was inaudible as the capacity crowd rocking the arena was incredibly deafening.

Players, fans and even officials Tom Pauley, Scott Reese and Ralph Holzer looked at each other. It was as if someone hit the pause button.

Pioneers coach Mike Troy later went to the video recording to see if the shot beat the buzzer.

“On our camera there was .2 seconds left on the clock,’ Troy said. “Unfortunately it was waved off. I thought there was contact on it and there was time on the clock but unfortunately there was no whistle and it was waved off.’

Green Raiders coach Michael Snyder said he didn’t hear the horn. He wasn’t in position to see the clock, just the bodies wrestling for the ball.

“Most of the time at the end of the game when a shot goes up everyone stands and watches,’ Snyder said. “Usually everyone just tends to stop and they think that’s it. We at least got our kids in there and had bodies in there instead of standing around.’

Troy isn’t going to like watching the replay of the last six minutes as the Pioneers surrendered a five-point lead.

The Green Raiders got a big-time play from junior Julian Wing, whose three-point bomb with 2:17 left gave them their first lead since the third quarter. The Ridley student section attired in all-green rocked the building.

“I’m going to remember that shot,’ Wing, who scored a game-high 12 points said. “It was one of the biggest shots I’ve had and my biggest shot in the game. I was confident in my shot.’

Pioneers senior James VanDeventer brought down the house with a steal and a breakaway layup knotting the score at 34 with one minute remaining. A sea of Pioneers students garbed in white began their celebration.

But the Green Raiders set themselves up for the victory with an alert play by guard Nick Czechowicz, who drew what was left of the defense not cheating toward Foster to the hoop and sent the ball to Ameer Staggs for an easy layup.

“I know they were covering on Brett and I had a wide open path to the basket,’ Czechowicz said. “I was going to do a pull-up and I saw Ameer down low.

“This is absolutely insane. This building, this whole atmosphere, this is like no other. They beat us when we came here last time by one point in overtime. We got them back in the championship. And it was so big to come here and get the win.’

It wasn’t pretty, but the Green Raiders rolled into the intermission with a six-point lead.

The last thing anyone expected from the cold-shooting Pioneers was a scoring run. But they did just that, outscoring their guests 11-2 to grab a 24-21 advantage.

The Pioneers made just one of their first 13 shots against a Ridley defense that contested every shot.

The Green Raiders made just 2 of 10 field goal attempts but with Foster attacking the basket, got to the line and converted four free throws in the first quarter.

The Green Raiders lengthened their lead to 15-7 on back-to-back 3-point shots by Ryan Bollinger and Foster in the second quarter.

The Pioneers could get no closer than five points and needed a driving layup from Martin Dorsey moments before halftime to pull within 19-13.

Foster topped all scorers with seven points in the first half.

The Green Raiders connected on 6 of 17 shots in the first half, the Pioneers just 3 of 21.

“The bottom line is it was a great basketball game,’ Troy said. “I thought Ridley played very well. I thought we had a terrific second half. At the end of the day Wing made a clutch three, we came back and tied it and they were fortunate to hit a bucket at the end and unfortunately ours didn’t go in.

“I think the real lesson is you don’t put yourself in that situation. You need to determine the outcome of the games and not let others do it.’

On this night, the Green Raiders did just that.

“We were up here early in the season and lost in overtime,’ Snyder said.

“We had shots to win in regulation and in overtime. I said, ‘˜listen, we’re not missing the game-winning shot tonight.’ I really wanted the last shot but when you get a wide open layup, of course you’re going to take that.’

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