The Riverdale Rams showed signs of girls' basketball rust offensively, having had just days of practice with the full team before the season began.|
Hoewever, a tenacious defense propelled them to a perfect 3-0 record and a first-place finish in the Ridgewood Thanksgiving Tournament, capped with a 58-36 win over Ridgewood Saturday night.
"They're all excellent athletes," said Rams coach Mick Kopriva when asked how his team responded so well to the limited practice time. "They stay active all the time, and work hard during practice."
After the first quarter, Riverdale kept its lead to 10 points or more for almost the entire remainder of the game, despite constant substitutions of fresh bodies by Ridgewood coach Bryan Brooks.
Trailing 35-21 after halftime, the Spartans put together a run that cut the Riverdale lead to eight with one quarter to play. In the final three minutes of the quarter, four different Spartans players combined for 12 unanswered points.
"Elle (May) came out with her fourth foul there, and we didn't hold it together well," said Kopriva. "We made a lot of mistakes we shouldn't have made."
May, who was one of four Rams players in double figures with 10 points, was a constant factor defensively as well, pressuring the Ridgewood guards into several key turnovers.
The Rams jumped out to an early 9-2 edge after a trio of baskets by senior Hannah Nimrick and a 3-pointer from Lauren Claus. Nimrick narrowly missed a double-double, tallying 12 points to go with her eight rebounds.
"We need to move the ball better," said Nimrick. "We held it too much, and we need to make the opposing defense work harder in the future."
Ridgewood failed to overcome the pressure put up by the Riverdale defense early, and headed into the half trailing 35-21.
Ridgewood posted a large advantage on the boards, outrebounding the Rams by a 33-21 margin. Jasmine Jelko and Paige Wexell led the team with six apiece, to go along with their respective eight and four points.
Junior forward Sydney Mericle led all scorers with 17 points, including a 5-of-6 mark from the free-throw line.
"We need to slow down on offense," said Mericle. "We can't just expect to score with our fast break. But we'd done well here in the past, and hoped to do the same tonight."
The All-Tournament Team was comprised of May and Nimrick, as well asMadison Benson of BCPA,Taylor Brooks of Ridgewood andColleen Judge of Monmouth-Roseville.
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