Ridge View was on the ropes in the second round of the Class 4A girls basketball playoffs against Midland Valley.
The Blazers were without one of their senior captains and lost another player to injury in the second quarter. They watched the Mustangs rally from a 12-point first half deficit to take a third-quarter lead.
But thanks to the efforts of Elisabeth Whitmore and Armanii Grice, the Ridge View toughed out a 49-44 victory for their 19th consecutive win. The Blazers travel to Greenville, a 53-37 winner over Eastside, on Monday in the third round.
“Midland Valley is a physical team and they were knocking us out of our sets, and we let them get in our heads a little bit,” Ridge View coach Terrence Gibson said. “Even though we weren’t making baskets, we knew we could stay in it if we maintained defense.”
Ridge View (22-3) went nearly 16 minutes where it missed 16 shots in a row before Whitmore scored on a layup with 4:45 remaining to spearhead a 16-11 run to close out the contested battle.
“When Whitmore made that basket, it turned things around for us,” Gibson said.
The game started thirty minutes late because Midland Valley’s bus broke on the trip to Columbia. That didn’t slow the intensity on either side, though.
Grice, an All-State selection who finished with 20 points and 11 rebounds, scored seven consecutive points in the second quarter to give the Blazers a 23-11 lead with just under five minutes remaining in the half. The Blazers missed their final eight shots of the half with five turnovers to allow the Mustangs to score the final five points of the half to make it 23-16.
Erin Andrews, who finished with a team-high 15 points for Midland Valley, hit back-to-back 3-pointers and scored eight points to pull the Mustangs within 26-24. When Andrews scored another basket with 2:20 remaining in the quarter, the Midland Valley run had reached 21-5 for a 32-28 lead.
Grice kept Ridge View in it from the free throw line during the cold stretch. The senior made 13-of-16, and her two with 6:21 remaining put the Blazers back in the lead 33-32. It was tied at 37 after a Whitmore stick back with 2:25 remaining.
“You can’t say enough about Armanii Grice,” Gibson said. “She stepped up in the crucial moments. It doesn’t always show on the stat sheet or scorebook, but she made plays.”
Grice hit two free throws with 2:45 remaining to give the Blazers the lead for good. Laura Ajukwa added a layup and freshman Lauren Scott converted a three-point play to make it 44-37 with 1:17 left.
Whitmore, who scored eight of her 12 points in the final 4:45, added two more layups in the final 36 seconds to seal the win.
“We knew we had to stay disciplined, work hard and play defense,” Whitmore said. “We just had to come together as a team despite the things that came at us.”
Midland Valley (16-6) played without coach Ken Quiller, who was arrested this past weekend for “inappropriate” contact with a female student.
MV – Erin Andrews 15, Shania Evans 13, Morgan 8, Edmond 5, Jefferson 3. RV – Armanii Grice 20, Elisabeth Whitmore 12, Beshear 6, Scott 5, Harts 3, Ajukwa 2, Kelley 1.