PHILADELPHIA — Even Plymouth-Whitemarsh’s high-scoring senior guard hadn’t heard of Ridley before his team was set to face the Green Raiders in a District One Class AAAA semifinal Wednesday night.
When the Green Raiders awaited tipoff against Xzavier Malone and the rest of his Colonial teammates, Ridley had already knocked off the likes of Lower Merion in a Central League semifinal, and defeated league foe and the district’s No. 1 seed, Conestoga, twice in the postseason en route to Wednesday night’s contest at Temple’s Liacouras Center, an arena that features a seating capacity of more than 10,000.
Though ninth-seeded Ridley couldn’t complete an upset of the Colonials in a 44-41 defeat, it took the tournament’s fourth seed to the wire on an unfamiliar stage.
“I don’t think we were nervous or anything like that,’ Ridley coach Mike Snyder said. “The kids just came out to play.
“Overall, it was a great effort by our kids and we just came up a little short.’
The Green Raiders hung tight with the Colonials for much of the contest. They never trailed by more than three at the end of each of the first three quarters, and responded when its opponents put up a run.
Plymouth-Whitemarsh held a seven-point advantage midway through the second quarter, Ridley went on a 10-3 run to cap off the half, including a 3-pointer from junior Julian Wing at the buzzer that would knot the score at 20 apiece heading into the break.
The Green Raiders hung with the Colonials in the following quarter, and took a three-point deficit into the final eight minutes. Though the Colonials held the advantage through the entirety of the fourth quarter, Ridley kept it close throughout.
Trailing by a point with the ball with 17.1 seconds left after a back-and-forth final quarter, the Green Raiders were whistled for a traveling call on the possession. After he was intentionally fouled on the ensuing play, Plymouth-Whitemarsh’s Andre Mitchell hit a pair of free throws, setting up Ridley’s final bid to knot the score with a three-point deficit.
The ball found the clutches of Ridley’s earlier answer at the buzzer, but this time, Wing’s 3-point attempt hit the front end of the rim as time expired.
“It was a good call. He did walk,’ Snyder said. “We came back down again with six seconds, and I couldn’t have asked for a more open 3 at the buzzer than we that. It was a right there for a good 3-point shooter. They did what they needed to do, some of the shots just didn’t fall tonight.
“You have to give Plymouth a lot of credit. They made a lot of tough shots from the perimeter.’
Ryan Bollinger led the Green Raiders with 10 points, while Wing, Brett Foster and Ameer Staggs netted scoring totals of nine and eight and six, respectively.
Ridley’s 2014-15 campaign has featured five playoff wins, but that it couldn’t swipe a sixth and entry into the district final was a loss Staggs said was difficult for his team to cope with after it ended.
“It was a hard loss,’ Staggs said. “It was a hard loss to take in the last seconds. We wanted it.
“We came here thinking we could pull off a big win, but unfortunately it didn’t happen like that. We tried our best and everything, we played as a team, we played tough defense, but we just didn’t come out of it with the win.’
The Green Raiders will face Pennsbury, which fell to Abington in the other semifinal, in a third-place consolation matchup Friday at the Falcons’ home floor.
“We’re just going to go home and take it easy,’ Wing said, “watch film on Pennsbury, come out and play Friday.’
While Malone couldn’t match his 12-point first half in the final 16 minutes, his seven points inside the game’s final three minutes helped give his team the edge in a close contest. He finished with 19 points, while guard Ryan Murray followed with 12.
“It was getting crazy toward the end,’ Malone said. “I was shocked that they came back like that.
“When we were up by (seven points in the second quarter), I thought we had them in the bag. But (Foster) is a great player, him and (Wing). They got on a run, but we just stuck together as a family and came out with the win.’