MONTGOMERY, NJ -- The Ridge girls basketball team did not win Thursday night, but the Red Devils nearly shocked the world.
Throwing a bigger scare into undefeated Franklin than any other team has all season, Ridge led the top-seeded Warriors early, then stayed right within striking distance of them deep into the fourth quarter before Franklin survived a 61-55 verdict in the semifinal round of the Somerset County Tournament Thursday night.
Franklin (25-0) will play second-seeded Rutgers Prep in the championship game on Saturday. Ridge (18-8) will head into the Section 2, Group 4 state tournament now with a significant confidence boost.
Junior point guard Sophie Beneventine led the Red Devils with 18 points, 10 rebounds, three steals and three assists. Ridge opened a 19-16 lead after the first quarter against a team that is accustomed to blowing teams out of the gym right after the opening tip. Eight days earlier, Franklin defeated Ridge, 69-36, in a regular season game.
"We just played them last week, so we made a few tweaks, tried to come at them from different angles and with different cutting patterns," said Ridge head coach Eric Schroeder. "We knew one of their strengths was getting up the floor, so we made sure to always have somebody back on defense. And on offense, we can get the ball up the floor, too. Ava Haiback hit two quick threes for us in the firsr quarter, and Diamond Miller got into foul trouble for them in the first half."
Miller, a University of Maryland commit who is considered New Jersey's top senior basketball player, finished with 21 points. For Ridge, Taylor Smith scored 13 points and had five rebounds and two assists, and Delaney Donohoe finished with 10 points, four rebounds and two assists.
"Franklin just made one or two more plays than we did down the stretch," Schroeder said. "But we played a great game against them. I am proud of the way we played, and our focus now is Elizabeth, who we play in the first round of the state tournament Monday."