EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - Wood-Ridge survived a sluggish start, turnovers and poor foul shooting throughout Sunday afternoon’s 68-66 overtime victory over Rutherford in the Second Annual South Bergen Classic held at Becton High School.
Rutherford led 31-23 going into the half, as the Blue Devils were held to eight points in the second quarter by the Bulldogs defense. Wood-Ridge's struggles seemed to increase when starting center John Kurz went out with a bloody nose after a collision under the basket. Rutherford outscored Wood-Ridge 12-5 down the stretch going into halftime.
The Blue Devils, who have struggled in the first half and come back during the season, mounted a third quarter rally, behind the scoring of Moshe Wilson and Ryan Connelly, to outscore Rutherford 21-9. The Blue Devils led 44-40 at the end of three periods.
Ryan Connelly’s three-pointer with 2:16 remaining in the game, gave the Blue Devils a 57-50 lead, and appeared control of the game. Rutherford’s Albellany Mendez hit two foul shots to cut the lead to 57-52, and Wood-Ridge committed of turnovers, including one while Wood-Ridge coach Jimmy Maher was trying to call timeout, allowed the Bulldogs to cut the lead to 57-56 with 28.7 seconds remaining in the game.
Rutherford fouled Wilson, sending him to the line with 20.4 seconds left. Wilson missed the foul shot. Rutherford turned the ball back over to Wood-Ridge, sending Kurz to the line with 15.2 seconds left. Kurz sank both foul shots giving the Blue Devils a 59-56 lead.
Rutherford’s Zach Bouabidi was fouled by Liam Winslow with 4.0 seconds remaining during a three-point attempt from the corner, sending him to the line with a chance to tie the game. Bouabidi nailed all three shots.
But the drama was not over yet, as a Wood-Ridge turned the ball over to Rutherford with 1.3 seconds left, as a cross-court backcourt pass was deflected off the Wood-Ridge player before going out-of-bounds.
Mendez’ 40 footer at the buzzer was off the mark, and the game headed to overtime.
Wilson took over in overtime for the Blue Devils, scoring the opening basket to give the Blue Devils a lead they never relinquished. Rutherford’s Dom Ciani went one of two from the line, before Wilson scored again, extending the lead to three. Mendez went one-of-two from the line cutting to two. Connelly answered with a three to give the Blue Devils a five point lead, with a 1:24 remaining.
Rutherford Demetri Burroughs cut the lead to three, with two more foul shots. Wilson missed the front end of a one and one with 1:01 left, but scored just eight second later, to give Wood-Ridge a five-point lead, 68-63.
Rutherford cut the lead to two as Bouabidi converted a conventional three point play, driving to the basket, scoring and making the foul shot.
A turnover with gave Rutherford a chance to tie or go for the lead, Bouabidi missed a pair of foul shots, with 9.8 seconds left. The Bulldogs quickly fouled Wilson who had grabbed the rebound, who missed both foul shots with a chance to ice the game away.
But Rutherford was unable to get a shot off before the clock expired, and Wood-Ridge escaped with a 68-66 victory.
“Too many turnovers, “ said Maher after the game. “Turnover and missed foul shots. Every practice we practice foul shots.”
Maher also gave praise to Kurz, who despite scoring only five points, and missing the last half of the second quarter with the bloody nose, was able to help the Blue Devils contain the much larger Bulldogs on the boards.
“He does all the stuff that we need done,” said Maher. “He has earned his time. He worked hard, coming to practice every day, never complaining when he was dropped down to the JV. He got an opportunity and he has made the most of it.”
Wood-Ridge improves to 15-4 on the season and returns to the court to Hasbrouck Heights Tuesday evening in a pivotal NJIC Meadowlands matchup.
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