Ridley misses its chances down the stretch

ROYERSFORD — Facing the state finalist from last season and dealing with a 6-7 force in the paint, the Ridley Green Raiders had a simple plan Saturday.

They wanted to keep it close. They wanted to have a chance in the final minutes.

Ridley did exactly that. But it didn’t execute enough in those waning minutes, as it fell, 58-54, to La Salle in the first round of the PIAA Class AAAA Tournament at Spring-Ford High School. The Green Raiders season ends at 20-7.

“Those shots didn’t fall,’ said Ridley coach Michael Snyder, summing up the stretch run. “We just didn’t make the plays at the end.’

Down seven entering the final period, Ridley cut the deficit to four with 4:58 left after Brett Foster dropped the 16th of his 20 points. It then held La Salle (20-6) without a point on its next three possessions, but Ridley failed to capitalize on each opportunity.

By the time the Green Raiders cut it to one score, there were 30 seconds remaining. La Salle’s Kitt Najee Walls sunk the pressure free throws on two separate occasions. Ridley never had a chance to even tie it.

“They were a good team, it was a tough loss,’ Foster said. “My team played hard, we had a chance to win it.’

Ridley’s best chance to do something came with just under 2:00 left. After drawing a charge on David Krmpotich, LaSalle’s 6-foot-7 behemoth, Ridley had the ball down by four. It never even got into its set, turning the ball over, which led to an easy Walls transition layup.

Ameer Staggs (18 points) and Julian Wing (12 points) added field goals down the stretch as Ridley kept up the fight. But between La Salle’s free throw shooting and the previous wasted opportunities, the Green Raiders’ fate was sealed.

The wait for the program’s first state tournament win since 2008 would go on. Krmpotich and his 20 points were a big reason why.

“We don’t have the size to match up,’ Snyder said. “We don’t have the length to matchup.’

Ridley did the best it could against the Colgate-bound power. But with five or six inches on any Green Raider, there was only so much that could be done.

“He did what he was supposed to do at 6-7,’ Foster said. “Props to him, he’s a good player.’

La Salle, the third seed from District 12, wasn’t all Krmpotich. Walls, the speedy point guard, had 11 points. Shawn Witherspoon had a strong second half, notching 13 key points.

The Explorers led, 14-12, after the first quarter and by two at halftime. A 20-15 edge in the third quarter gave them that seven-point lead entering the fourth quarter, but Ridley did not go quietly.

The Central League champions and District One tournament semifinalists played like a team that deserved to be in states.

“It was a great year,’ Snyder said. “We beat five teams that are in the state tournament. I was happy with the season we had.’

Foster, the Central League MVP, will be back next year. So will Wing, Ryan Bollinger and few others. Ridley expects to return to this point in 2016.

“We’ll be back,’ said Foster, confidently. “We’ll be back.’

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