For the past three seasons, Ridge View and Lexington have met in the Class 4A boys basketball playoffs and the winner has gone on to play for the state championship.
Thanks to a basket from senior center Jose Roman will 11 seconds remaining in overtime, the Blazers will get a chance to keep that streak intact after a thrilling, 74-72 come-from-behind first-round victory against the Wildcats on Wednesday night.
For Roman, it was the end of an emotional day. Exactly one year ago, Roman’s brother was killed in an accident with a drunk driver. He missed part of the third quarter after dealing with anxiety and breathing issues but came back to score 14 of his game-high 22 points in the fourth quarter and the overtime. He used a drop-step move to score the game-winner then had to wait for a Lexington desperation shot to miss the mark before he collapsed on the court. He was tended to by medical personal before being taken to Lexington Medical Center for precautionary measures.
“Jose Roman gutted it out and kept fighting,” Ridge View coach John Combs said. “He’s been very emotional all week, and I just think at the end it was too much for him. He has been a leader of this team and all the players felt what he was going through. He carried us there down the stretch.”
Lexington coach Bailey Harris tried to call a timeout before the final wayward shot but was told by the officials it was a loose ball and nobody had possession. It was the first time in his 26 years at Lexington that he’s lost a home playoff game.
“Bottom line is we made too many mistakes and turned it over in crucial situations,” Harris said. “We wanted to push the ball on that final possession but when things broke down and we really didn’t have a shot I tried, but couldn’t get, a timeout.”
It was a gutty performance by both teams. Ridge View (14-10) never held the lead after the middle of the first quarter until the overtime. They trailed by as many as 10 points — nine in the fourth quarter — before staging a frantic rally to force the extra period.
Roman took over with a little more than five minutes remaining and the Wildcats leading 58-49. He made four free throws during that stretch and scored on a couple of offensive rebounds to pull the Blazers within 61-57. Jarrell Brantley and Roman added buckets but the Wildcats kept the lead, 65-61, thanks to free throws by Grant Hendrix and Nygel Gates.
It was 68-61 with 1:16 remaining when Ridge View closed it out by scoring the final seven points. Jordan Portee knocked down two free throws, Brantley added a layup and Trevon Howell tied with a straight-away 3-pointer with 24 seconds remaining.
“Our kids kept fighting and never thought they were out of it,” Combs said. “This was a great atmosphere to come play in and I’m still trying to figure out how we found a way. This was as good of a first-round game as you could have and we made some big, big shots when we had to.”
Harris elected not to call timeout at the end of regulation and Hendrix had a deep 3-pointer that bounced off the back of the rim at the buzzer.
“We had what we wanted in that situation,” Harris said. “I thought if we called a timeout there, it would allow them to set the defense. We got a shot, it just didn’t go down.”
The Wildcats (17-10) were able to maintain the lead until the end despite battling foul trouble and an ankle injury that sidelined Nelson Spence early in the fourth quarter. Hendrix hit five 3-pointers in the first quarter but he scored two points in the second half.
Spence took over with Hendrix and fellow starter Phillip Blake on the bench early in the third quarter after picking up their third fouls. Spence scored 12 consecutive points during one stretch that kept the Blazers from pulling closer earlier.
“We faced some adversity but stayed after it,” Harris said. “These were great kids to coach and they did everything we asked of them. It’s just sad it ended this way. It seems like Ridge View came up with all the big rebounds and so-called 50-50 balls.”
Ridge View, winner’s of five of their past six, will travel to Summerville on Saturday in the second round.
RV – Jose Roman 22, Trevon Howell 14, Jordan Portee 10, Wages 9, Brantley 8, Bradshaw 8, Robinson 3. L – Grant Hendrix 17, Nygel Gates 16, Nelson Spence 14, Mav Bishop 12, Blake 9, Davis 2, Hunter 2.