RIPLEY – The Ripley Blue Jays boys’ basketball team found themselves in a rut.
Since the team’s 48-33 victory over Northwest Dec. 1, they dropped six straight games and saw their record plummet to 1-7. The team needed a victory badly, and Monday night against the Felicity Cardinals was just what the doctor ordered.
It wasn’t easy, though it appeared it would be early on. Ripley led 13-11 at the end of the first quarter, but a stifiling defensive effort in the second and third stanzas allowed them to pull ahead 39-28 as the fourth quarter began.
The Blue Jays struck first to increase their lead to 13, but Felicity ripped off a 15-5 runthat pulled them within three points at 46-43.
Both teams struggled with foul shots down the stretch, as Dalton Cochran and Kevin Arkenau each missed a pair of shots for the Cardinals late. Ripley’s Laymon Marshal hit one of his three foul shots in the fourth quarter, which put Ripley up by that three-point margin. He then promptly fouled Cochran, who hit one of the three free-throws. Chandler Himes hit one of his final free-throw attempts to give the Blue Jays some cushion, and Felicity could not get a shot off at the buzzer.
Head coach Marty Adams acknowledged how important this win was for his team while also noting similarities between his team and the Cardinals.
“We needed this one big-time,” Adams said. “We scrimmaged Felicity early in the year. They’re kind of like us, they don’t have a lot of size but they play together and buy in to what their coach wants them to do. [Dominic Ruwe] can flat-out score, it’s hard to guard him. It was a good win for us.”
It was Ripley’s defense that allowed the team to build a first-half lead, according to Adams.
“I think it’s just sitting down and playing defense,” Adams said. “We got some stops and executed on offense. We were able to score and get stops on the other end.”
Defense is the key to Ripley’s game plan, as the offense isn’t consistent enough to be relied upon every night. The team needs defense to set up their offensive attack.
“We like to be patient on the offensive end, get an easy bucket if we can and then sit down and play defense,” Adams said.
When the offense stopped making shots for the Blue Jays, the Cardinals rallied and made a game out of it late. Adams noted the defense was still playing well, but the lack of scoring was hard to overcome.
“We weren’t executing on the offensive end,” Adams said. “Defensively we weren’t playing bad. We gave up some offensive rebounds but we weren’t executing offensively like we did when we pushed that lead out. That’s the difference.”
After Felicity cut the deficit to six points midway through the fourth quarter, Adams called a timeout to rally his team, telling them they can’t afford to press things on offense.
“We talked about learning how to win,” Adams said. “We have to learn that in those situations with a lead you have to be more patient, make sure you get good looks and good buckets. We got good looks, we just didn’t finish them. I don’t know if that’s a lack of focus or what, we just didn’t finish. We missed a ton of free-throws again.”
Brian Dunn led the Blue Jays with 14 points. Marshall finished with nine and Josh Deaton added eight for Ripley. Ruwe led both teams with 25 points.
“I told Brian earlier in the year that he had to take on a little more of the scoring,” Adams said. “We talked a bit before the game tonight about it and he did it. He can shoot the ball and get it to the rim. He’s a strong kid who can get inside the paint and crafty enough to score on guys. We need more buckets and scoring from him going forward.”
The schedule ahead is not kind to Ripley. Next week, the team has road contests against Lynchburg, Peebles and Lewis County.
“That’s probably the toughest stretch we’ve had so far,” Adams said. “We’ll just go back and work on a lot of things. We’ll play hard, that keeps us in the game and hopefully we get better on offense. That’ll help us at least compete against those three teams.”
In junior varsity action, the Blue Jays once again were victorious. Ryan Harney scored 10 points while Alex King chipped in eight for Ripley in a 41-26 victory.