KITTANNING — The Ridgway boys basketball team gave defending state champion Sewickley Academy all it could handle on Wednesday evening, but ultimately fell as a three-pointer to tie the game and send it into overtime went long as the Elkers fell, 44-41, in the PIAA Class 2A second round at Armstrong High School.
Although Ridgway never led in the second half and had two ties, the Panthers never led by more than six as the Elkers pushed the state powerhouse down to the wire.
“We didn’t come to get close. We came to win,” said Ridgway coach Tony Allegretto. “Our kids played their hearts out. They carried out the gameplan. We just needed one more play. I’m very proud of them.”
A couple things plagued Ridgway on the night, with the first being that Ridgway ended the first half with 13 turnovers.
“When you’re playing a team that’s a lot more talented than you, you have to take care of the basketball,” said Allegretto. “I thought the first half we had a few too many turnovers and missed layups. There are some opportunities we left out there.”
The other was when senior forward Andy Breier fouled out in the third quarter.
Breier jumpstarted the Elkers in the game with 10 points in the first half.
After getting three fouls in the first half, Breier picked up his fourth a couple minutes into the second half before getting the fifth about 20 seconds later.
“He picked up his fourth foul and both assistant coaches started yelling at me, ‘That’s four. Get him out.’ I heard three. I thought, ‘I’ll let him get to four.’ He picks up the next one. It’s just stupidity on my part. Then he had to sit there and watch and that had to be painful for him. I’ll take that blame.”
Ridgway got down 10-4 early in the game, but grabbed the lead at 13-12 by the end of the first quarter on a Jake Reynolds three-pointer from the corner. It was the Elkers’ lone trey of the game.
Still, the Panthers outscored the Elkers 14-7 in the second quarter to take a 26-20 lead to halftime.
Ridgway climbed its way back into it in the third quarter and trailed by just two at 33-31 heading into the fourth.
The Panthers extended their lead to six by the middle of the quarter, but Ridgway answered with a 6-0 run, ending on a Johnny Mitchell layup off a turnover to tie it at 39 with four minutes to go.
Both teams ran the clock down before Sewickley’s Isiah Warfield hit a free throw with 41.4 seconds left.
After a Ridgway turnover with 25 seconds left, the Panthers hit two more before Allegretto got two free throws of his own to make it 42-41 with 10 seconds left.
Warfield hit two more with 9.2 seconds left before Ridgway’s last second attempt was too strong.
Ridgway finished the season at 26-2.
“We gave it our best shot. We just needed one more play,” Allegretto said. “I’m proud of the kids. The seniors gave me everything they had. They’ve had a great career. I’m happy to say they played for me.”
Sewickley Academy (23-4) will now play Jeannette in the Class 2A quarterfinals on Saturday. Jeannette beat Cambridge Springs, 62-60, on Wednesday evening.