BASKING RIDGE, NJ - Junior center Mike Zima's emergence as an interior presence for the Ridge boys basketball team has come just in time for a post-season tournament run.
Zima scored 19 points and grabbed 12 rebounds to lead seventh-seeded Ridge to a 59-43 victory over 10th-seeded Bound Brook in the first round of the Somerset County Tournament on Saturday.
The victory sends Ridge (13-10) to the county quarterfinals for a matchup against second-seeded Rutgers Prep Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. in Somerset.
Chris Feringa scored 15 points and Nate Herrera finished with nine points for Ridge, which won its fourth game in a row.
The Red Devils held a one-point halftime lead before opening the third quarter with a 9-2 run to take a 33-25 lead. Herrera scored on a fastbreak to ignite the second-half spurt and, after Bound Brook countered with a basket, Jeremy McCavera found Zima underneath for two, Jake Herrera sank a 3-pointer for Ridge and Zima went up strong for a follow-shot that gave Ridge an eight-point lead.
"Zima has been starting for us for about the last 10 games," said Ridge coach Brian Feath. "He gives us a physical presence, he grabs everything, he's coachable and he is tough as nails. He challenges everything at the rim. We knew Zima was tough inside, but the offensive ability he has shown has been a nice surprise. He's been giving us a double-double every game lately."
After getting beat off the dribble more than Feath would have liked in a tightly contested opening half, Ridge switched from a man-to-man and stifled Bound Brook's halfcourt attack over the last 16 minutes.
"We started in a man, but we had a hard time guarding against the bounce, so we went to a 2/3 zone, which has been very effective," Feath said. "The kids are comfortable in it, and they know their spots, even though I'd rather play man when we can."
Bound Brook was still within eight, 49-41, early in the fourth quarter when the Red Devils ripped off eight straight points to secure the game. Nate Herrera had a pair of driving layups and both Roger Faustin and Feringa scored on layups in that decisive finishing run.
Getting past the quarterfinals will be a tough order for Ridge, which has lost two games, by 13 and by nine points, to Rutgers Prep this season.