High School Sports

Ridgeland girls scrap way to second-round win, 40-34

Frederick Toomer can say he has coached more polished offensive teams.

Some of his past Ridgeland High School girls basketball players might have had better ball-handling skills, better shots and better post moves. But this season is different.

The Jaguars' defense leads to offense. And the offense doesn't have to be pretty.

Force bad shots, create turnovers and frustrate the opposition. Points will come. These are Toomer's credos.

Ridgeland endured long stretches Thursday without scoring, using bursts from its transition game to hold off East Clarendon and win 40-34 at home in the second round of the Class 1-A playoffs. The Jaguars advance to Monday's Lower State semifinal and will host the winner of Burke and C.E. Murray.

"That's the bottom line in the playoffs," Toomer said. "Win and move on."

The style of play can be frustrating at times for Toomer and the Jaguars' faithful to watch. When the steals weren't there, Ridgeland settled into its halfcourt offense and settled for 3-pointers or turned the ball over. Dry spells rendered the Jaguars' once-large lead unsafe.

"We slowed down," Jaguars guard April Jenkins said. "And they were executing."

But at this point in the playoffs, the team advancing is doing it right. Jenkins came up with two big steals and got to the free-throw line both times at the other end after East Clarendon had pulled within three with 1:23 left.

It also was Jenkins who led the defensive charge early, scoring three quick fast-break buckets to force Wolverines coach James Green to call timeout.

The Jaguars started on a 12-0 run. Green wanted to calm his team down, to remember it had been in this situation before during the regular season. The Wolverines were bigger and, at times, more physical than Ridgeland. The Jaguars were quicker. Green's team had to adjust.

The Wolverines carved out a manageable deficit and went to work, becoming the aggressors during the third quarter. The tables were turned, and East Clarendon's combination of Latorya Whack and Shanque Cooper began hitting shots inside and getting to the free-throw line.

"They were on the attack," Toomer said. "A few times, we were the ones on our heels."

Ridgeland post player Brittany Richardson, the Jaguars' leading rebounder, fouled out with 2:45 left, giving the Wolverines the edge on the glass. Green's team grabbed rebounds and drew fouls but could not convert on four free-throw attempts down the stretch.

Ridgeland held on. It wasn't always pretty. It didn't have to be.

"But this team is on a better path than I've had with other teams," Toomer said. "They're on the right path."

Ridgeland girls 40, East Clarendon 34

East Clarendon (9-11) -- Lotorya Whack 15, Shanque Cooper 9, Garbrella Cunningham 6, D'Onna McFadden 4.

Ridgeland (21-5) -- Briana Walker 19, April Jenkins 11, Brittany Richardson 4, Brittany Ford 3, Tonisha Roberts 2, Matesha Stevenson 1.