BASKING RIDGE, NJ -- The Ridge girls basketball team would very much like to have the first five minutes of Tuesday night's game against defending state champion Franklin back.
In those five minutes, Franklin opened the game with nine unanswered points, Ridge committed six turnovers before attempting its first shot with 4:21 left in the quarter, and the Red Devils' leading scorer, Taylor Smith, was whistled for two quick fouls and went to the bench.
Ridge eventually settled in and played a very competitive second half, but Franklin had established too much of an upper hand by then, as the Warriors defeated the Red Devils, 59-46.
Franklin won the Somerset County championship, the state Group 4 championship and then the state Tournament of Champions in 2019. The Warriors did so with one of the best players of the nation, Diamond Miller, who has graduated and who is at the University of Maryland now, but they still have plenty of talent and plenty of ammo to make a team pay if it gets off to a slow start.
Delaney Donohoe scored 14 points and grabbed six rebounds, and Sophie Beneventine finished with 11 points, nine assists and three rebounds for Ridge (14-5). Shooting wasn't the problem for the Red Devils, who made 53 percent of their shots (18 for 34). Getting shots off was--Ridge committed 21 turnovers--and slowing Franklin's torrid halfcourt offense was, too.
Franklin (15-3) hit 22 of 46 shots (48 percent) against Ridge's halfcourt zone, and committed just four first-half turnovers in building a 40-24 lead by halftime. Onoseta Ufuah finished with 22 points for the Warriors. She sank nine of 18 field goal attempts.
"We knew coming in that Franklin plays good defense, and they turned us over a lot in the first few minutes," said Ridge head coach Eric Schroeder. "It's hard to dig yourselves out of that kind of hole."
After Franklin took a 9-0 lead, the teams traded baskets for the rest of the first quarter, but the Warriors opened the second quarter with an 11-4 run to open a 16-point lead midway through the period. Smith, who averages more than 12 points per game for Ridge, sat the entire second quarter.
Schroeder said of the decision to wait until the second half to put Smith back on the court, "We thought about it, but with some of the matchups, we also did not want her to pick up her third foul before halftime."
With Smith joining Beneventine in the backcourt in the second half, Ridge operated more characteristically in its halfcourt sets, with Beneventine working the pick-and-roll and the outside-in game nicely with Donohoe and forward Carly Cambria, who finished with eight points and four rebounds.
"We are happy with the way we played offensively," Schroeder said. "We have three good forwards (Donohoe, Cambria and Lauren Lusardi), and they all played well tonight. They have been doing a great job."
It looks as if the Somerset County Tournament, which will be seeded next Monday, will have Rutgers Prep, Franklin and Gill-St. Bernard's the top three seeds. Ridge is likely to be seeded fourth or fifth, and could very well meet Franklin two more times--in the counties and possibly in the Section 2, Group 4 state tournament in March.
GAME NOTES: Franklin was coming off a 91-6 victory over Shabazz on Saturday. That halftime score was 71-4. ...Beneventine has 965 career points.