BASKING RIDGE, NJ - A patient offense and a disruptive zone defense boosted Bernards to a 32-23 boys basketball victory over Ridge Saturday afternoon.
Kyle Levine sank five of six foul shots when Bernards scored the last nine points of the game over the final two minutes after Ridge had rallied to tie it, 23-23.
"Rally," however, was a relative term for both teams in a game where points were at an extreme premium. Neither team scored in double digits in any quarter, but, whereas Bernards (9-3) mostly exerted patience in working the ball in its halfcourt offense, Ridge (6-6), which customarily thrives on creating offensive opportunities from its defense, was unable to ever get into any true offensive rhythm against the Mountaineers' 2-1-2 zone.
The closest the Red Devils came to doing so was during an 8-0 run bridging the third and fourth quarters. After Chris Feringa sank one of two free throws, Mike Zima converted a putback to bring Ridge within 23-18 heading into the final quarter. After a stalemate of nearly three minutes to open the final quarter, Feringa fed Mike DeMarco for a layup with 5:12 left before knocking down a 3-pointer from the corner with 2:19 left to tie the game, 23-23.
By that point, Bernards had gone the equivalent of a full quarter without scoring, but while Ridge's man-to-man defense did its usual staunch job of holding its opponent to a low score, the Red Devils were not able to jump in the passing lanes and turn steals into layups at the other end to fuel their own offensive doldrums.
With 1:52 to go, Phil Mahlik sank a 3-pointer from the left corner to give Bernards a 26-23 lead. Levine converted both ends of a one-and-one with 1:30 left for a five-point Bernards lead, and both free throws after a shooting foul with :52 left to extend the lead to 30-23 and all but secure a victorious four-mile bus ride back up Finley Avenue.
Levine finished with 11 points, Owen Loughlin scored 10 and Phil Mahlik netted nine points for Bernards. Feringa led Ridge with 11 points.