By Danny Emerman (Sports Correspondent). The ball dropped to the floor, the buzzer sounded, and junior Ricardo Ripley sat under the hoop in shock, looking for a whistle that would never sound.
After squeaking past Wilmington in the first game of the Larry McGrath Christmas Tournament, the Eagles lost to Tewksbury 63-61 in the championship in stunning fashion.
Point guard Ricardo Ripley raced down the court, Tewksbury’s Nate Tenaglia matching every step. He made a move, slashed into the paint, elevated between two Tewksbury defenders at the rim, drew contact, and threw up a prayer.
“I dribbled up the court, tried to make a move. I hit the defender with an ‘in and out’ and I got some space. He made some contact with me. I put up a shot, got blocked. No foul called.” Sharon trailed by two points with under ten seconds remaining, Ripley recalled.
“He played pretty decent defense and whether it’s a foul or not is up to the ref and he didn’t call a foul so it wasn’t a foul,” Ripley said.
“I had space to work. It just didn’t end the way I wanted it to.”
Although he did not have his best game, Ripley (12 points) emerged as the team’s “go-to” playmaker at the end of close games.
Tenaglia, who defended Ripley on the final play, averaged 28 points per game prior to the championship. Led by Tyler Smith and Josh Rotman, the Eagles held him to 22.
“I think he’s one of the best players we will play all season,” junior Josh Rotman said.
“He can shoot, he can drive. He doesn’t play a lot of defense, but that’s because he never comes out of the game.”
“We threw the kitchen sink at him,” Coach Ferguson said. “Tyler [Smith] and Josh [Rotman] did a very good job on defense.”
“We knew going in he was the guy we had to stop. I would have liked to keep him under 20, but he’s a heck of a ballplayer,” he added.
After leading by four at halftime, Sharon allowed Tewksbury to make a run and build a 10 point deficit midway through the third quarter.
“We could have crumbled. We could have fallen apart and they could have ran away with it and won by 25 points. We just have too much toughness on this team. Too many guys who really don’t want to quit and want to compete,” Ferguson said.
Mitchell Sirota, who led the team in scoring with 16 points, says that their size created a favorable matchup for Sharon.
“It was a good matchup. Ricardo, Tyler, and our other guards were knocking down shots and getting to the basket, which opened up space for me down low,” Sirota said.
The first game, on the other hand, was not as great a matchup for Sharon, who struggled to find their intensity, says Coach Ferguson.
“We brought no effort to the table. We played down to the competition. It’s good when you win when you’re not at your best, but I expected better effort from our team,” Ferguson said.
The lone bright spot in the narrow win against Wilmington was senior guard Andrew Filipkowski, who hit 3 three-pointers en route to a season high 14 points.
“It always feels good to go off. I’m a kid who just likes to shoot the basketball. If I’m open on the wing, I’m going to take the shot,” Filipkowski said.
Despite the great performance in the first game, the captain was “in shambles” after the loss in the championship to Tewksbury.
“When you play like that and the refs are not on your side and you have everything going against you and you’re in it until the last possession, you’re feeling good at the end. I honestly want to punch through a brick wall right now.”