RIPLEY — Anyone who stopped following the Ripley Blue Jays’ season-opening bout against the Batavia Bulldogs after Ripley fell behind 13-5 at the end of the first quarter missed a great game.
What initially looked like a blowout turned into quite the barn-burner as the Blue Jays rallied back to force overtime, but came up just short to the Bulldogs, losing, 58-50.
To be fair, Ripley’s offense was borderline offensive in the first quarter, and the defense wasn’t much better. The team couldn’t buy a bucket to start the game, nor could they stop the Bulldogs from scoring on their side of the court. Batavia raced out to an 8-0 lead before Ripley head coach Marty Adams called timeout with 5:15 left in the quarter.
The Blue Jays responded to his timeout by draining a three-pointer courtesy of Joseph Holmes for Ripley’s first bucket of the game. It came roughly five minutes into the contest. The Bulldogs answered in kind, hitting a three-pointer of their own less than a minute later. The teams traded baskets to end the quarter.
In the second quarter, the Blue Jays offense caught fire. Trailing 21-13 with 2:15 remaining in the quarter, Ripley went on a 10-3 run that gave them a brief 23-22 lead before Batavia sank two free-throws with 10.5 seconds left before halftime. The Bulldogs used those baskets to lead 24-23 at the break.
Both teams came out cold in the second half, but the Blue Jays broke through and regained a slim lead thanks to a bucket from Michael Oberschlake. After Batavia answered with a basket of their own, the Jays went on a 9-2 run to take a six-point lead, boosted by a three-pointer from Laymon Marshall and an old-fashioned three-point play from Holmes.
Batavia answered back, however, out-scoring the Blue Jays 6-0 over the final 1:20 of the third quarter. The game entered the fourth tied at 34.
Ripley hit a pair of quick baskets to take a 38-34 lead and extended their margin to five after another three-point shot from Holmes. However, Batavia battled back, scoring the next seven points in a five-minute window to take a 43-41 lead. The teams would trade baskets until a Ripley foul gave the Bulldogs a one-point lead. Brian Dunn drained a three-point shot with just over a minute remaining to give his team a two-point lead. Thirteen seconds later, Dunn fouled Shawn Adams for the Bulldogs, who hit both free-throws to tie the game with 55.9 seconds remaining.
The Blue Jays dribbled the ball for the next 40 seconds before attempting to set up their offense. Adams was forced to call a time-out to set up a play.
“If they weren’t going to come out and guard us, we wanted to take the clock down for one shot,” Adams said. “When it got down to around 15 seconds, we looked out of whack so that’s when I called the timeout to look for something. We had a set play with about three options, we went for the first option. I didn’t think it was open, but they did and they went for it. I’d have rather done something toward the rim, maybe draw a foul and get to the line and win it there.”
The option the team took was a half-court lob underneath the basket to 5-foot-8-inch forward Tanner Hatfield. He caught the ball under the backboard and couldn’t get an accurate shot off.
Overtime began with both teams trading baskets but the Blue Jays went cold. They hit their first shot with 3:40 left and didn’t make another until there were 23.4 seconds were left in the game. The Bulldogs scored nine points in that same time-frame and would win the game 58-50.
Adams credited Ripley’s defense for turning the team around on both sides of the ball after the poor start to the game in the first quarter.
“We were in zone and we weren’t getting to the right spots,” Adams said. “Once we came out in man and got their blood pumping a little bit we were able to get some offense going. We’re going to live and die by the way we play defense. Switching the defense to man-to-man, getting everyone going a little bit allowed us to play better.”
Ripley had a decided height disadvantage throughout the game, and that’s something the team will have to deal with all season, which is why Adams and the rest of the Blue Jay coaching staff is trying to teach his team how to play when they find themselves going up against taller competition.
“We have to play the way we teach it every day in practice,” Adams said. “We have to front the post, make sure the help side is there to take away the lob and we didn’t do that. They scored a lot of easy ones. They had a lot of put-backs, we didn’t box out well.”
The lack of boxing-out on offense led to a lot of easy second-chance points for the Bulldogs.
“An assistant coach they had something like 20 second-chance points,” Adams said. “We’ve got to stop those. In an eight-point game, that’s the difference.”
Regardless of the result, it was a solid first effort from the Blue Jays, who return to the court Friday, December 4 at North Adams, another team with plenty of height on the interior.
“We made several mistakes, but hopefully we’ll learn from it and get better for it,” Adams said.