In the 31 days from Jan. 28 to last Friday’s District One third-place game, Ridley played 14 times. Seven were playoff games, between the Central League and District One tournaments. Eleven of their opponents were playoff teams, and eight – counting Conestoga twice and Lower Merion three times – advanced to PIAA tournaments (Glen Mills being the only AAA representative).
Yet somehow in all that nonstop, hectic pressure, Mike Snyder’s team struck a balance. (Heck, at one point, when it was 12 games in 24 days, Ridley won 10.)
The challenge now, as the Green Raiders (22-7) embark on the PIAA Class AAAA Tournament, is regenerating that momentum.
What Ridley must rediscover quickly ahead of Saturday’s meeting with La Salle (18-6) at 1 at Spring-Ford High School is how to cope with a chance to rest and regroup.
“We were in a groove where we were playing all those games in a row,” Snyder said. “It was high intensity. Then it was almost like taking the foot off the gas pedal. … We’ve just got to recover and get back to doing what we do best: Play hard, play fundamental.”
The air was let out of the balloon in the Feb. 25 loss to Plymouth Whitemarsh in the semis, a 44-41 setback where Ridley missed a chance to tie on the last possession. They followed that with a 65-51 defeat at the hands of Pennsbury to finish as the fourth seed out of District One.
Snyder is frank in saying that he’s not sure if eight days off between games is beneficial, but it is a chance to rest tired legs. Brett Foster has four single-digits scoring games this season; two have come in the last three games. Ameer Staggs shook off a streak of three straight single-digit scoring games with 21 points against Pennsbury. Julian Wing was held scoreless last time out thanks to an elbow problem and foul trouble, the former of which Snyder said has resolved itself.
They’ll need to recapture their hot form against a La Salle team that, Snyder is quick to point out, made a run to the state final as the third seed from District 12 last season. Most of the pieces of that run are back. From 6-7 Colgate signee David Krmpotich to the thunder-and-lightning backcourt duo of the speedy Najee Walls and the physical Shawn Witherspoon, many of the key contributors that got La Salle within 13 points of a state title in a 52-39 loss to New Castle will be on the court Saturday.
The Explorers struggled at times this season en route to an 18-6 record. But they produced wins when they needed to, including getting the better of Roman Catholic in the regular season and avenging a three-overtime loss in the regular season to St. Joseph’s Prep by besting them in the playoffs to obtain the Catholic League’s second and final District 12 regional bid.