East Ridge boys basketball: Raptors split final two, set to face Jones and Apple ValleyThe East Ridge boys basketball team split its two final Suburban East Conference games of the year last week as it looks ahead to the playoffs.
By: Teresa Townsend, Woodbury Bulletin
The East Ridge boys basketball team split its two final Suburban East Conference games of the year last week as it looks ahead to the playoffs.
To start the week, East Ridge (9-17; 6-12 SEC) lost a tight game to Stillwater 56-55, but defeated intra-district rival Park 68-55 last week as the team focused on overcoming weak rebound play.
The Raptors fell one fatal point behind the Ponies (13-13; 10-8 SEC) in their game on Tuesday, Feb. 28.
“I think, once again, it was our Achilles’ heel which is defensive rebounding. [Stillwater] got second opportunities,” said East Ridge head coach Paul Virgin.
Strong offense plays helped East Ridge keep pace with Stillwater, however.
Senior Justin Pahl led the way in the loss with 16 points and junior center Conrad Sexe netted 15 points.
“Conrad had a great game; that was really nice offensively. Justin shot 50 percent from the field. Those two guys were the biggest offensively.”
But the Raptors couldn’t overcome the Ponies’ one-point halftime lead.
“We gave up 10 offensive rebounds and that was too many,” Virgin said.
But, East Ridge turned things around for their game of the regular season against Park (2-24; 0-18 SEC) on Friday, March 2.
Young players stepped up to aid the Raptors to a 13-point victory over the Wolfpack.
Sophomore Ryan Mathis and junior Anton Walker played a combined total of 33 minutes for the game. Walker’s 10 minutes of play early in the game helped East Ridge find a 33-20 lead after the first half.
Mathis’ 3-pointer maintained East Ridge’s double-digit lead through the end of the game, despite the 11 points that the team gave up in offensive rebounds.
Jake Knupp, Pahl, and Nnamdi Nwokolo led the Raptors scoring for their game against the Wolfpack. Pahl had a team-high 14 points, Knupp scored 13 points and Nwokolo netted 12 points.
“Nwokolo really played a great game,” Virgin said. “He was three for three from the field and six for seven from the free-throw line. He played his best game.”
Although the East Ridge offense was able to make up the difference, they will need stronger rebound play when they face superstar Tyus Jones and Apple Valley (21-5) on Wednesday, March 7, in the first round of the Section 3AAAA tournament in Apple Valley. Jones is averaging 28.7 points a game and has a season-high of 45 points against No. 3-ranked Eastview.
“I’m happy with every other aspect of the game, that’s just one place we need to improve is defensive rebounding,” Virgin said.