MAPLEWOOD, NJ – Top-seeded Columbia was upset by eight seed Ridge High School, 60-51, Thursday night at Columbia. The loss ends the Cougars’ season with a 20-6 record.
Senior Maxim Michael scored a team-high 14 points in the loss, with fellow senior Justin Martin also scoring in double figures with 10 points.
Ridge held a large advantage on the free throw line, making 24 shots from the line while Columbia only made six. “They scored 24 points from the foul line,” head coach Eddie Turner said. “If they make 24 foul shots and we only shoot five, you are not going to win like that.”
At halftime, Columbia trailed Ridge 35-27.
“We weren’t playing well,” Turner said. “We took this team for granted in the first half and couldn’t get any stops. They scored 35 in the first and almost scored 70; you can’t win like that.”
Starting the second half, the Cougars went on an 8-0 run, with all four baskets coming from Michael, tying the game at 35-35. Ridge scored their first basket 2:47 into the half, breaking the tie, but sophomore Robert Gordon hit a 3-pointer followed by another basket to give Columbia the 42-39 lead.
“Yeah, we were playing defense well enough,” Turner said of his team’s play in the third quarter. “If we were able to defense (in the fourth quarter), we would have been able to stop them.”
Sophomore Justin Osuji hit a 3-pointer for Columbia, making the score 45-41 heading into the fourth quarter.
Once the fourth quarter started, Ridge began to control the game. They went on a 12-3 run with freshman Michael Runcie making the only basket for Columbia during that stretch, with the Devils holding a 53-48 lead.
Martin hit a three, cutting Ridge’s lead to two points with 3:40 to play, but those would be the final points of the game for the Cougars.
“Too many turnovers; we had a couple missed layups,” Turner said of his team’s late-game offense. “We just were not patient.”
Holding a 53-51 lead, Ridge would hit nine free throws in the final three and a half minutes of play to seal the victory and send the Devils to the semi-finals of the North 2 Group 4 NJSIAA Tournament.
Michael, Martin and senior Jordan Davis played their final game for the Cougars.
Stephen Valenti is participating in a hyperlocal journalism partnership between The Alternative Press and Seton Hall University's Department of Communication & The Arts designed to give students real-world experience.