The highly anticipated rematch between No. 1 Ridge View and No. 2 Westwood lived up to hype.
Westwood senior guard Russell Jones hit a floater over Javon Benson with six seconds remaining and then Ahmon Green drew a charge from Walyn Napper on the game’s final play to give the second-ranked Redhawks a 58-57 win over Ridge View on Friday night in front of a near-capacity crowd.
“It meant the world on my last senior, night, last regular season game here,” Jones said. “We were down big at one point and we knew we could always fight back. I missed a free throw like last year but God was able to put the ball in my hands again and I put it over the top and put us up one.”
With the win, Ridge View and Westwood share the Region 3-4A title. The Blazers will get the No. 1 seed and homecourt in first three rounds by point differential between the two teams. Ridge View defeated Westwood 79-64 on Jan. 18
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It looked for a while the Blazers might be on to another blowout. Ridge View led by as many as 13 points and was up 47-37 entering the fourth-quarter. But led by Jones, the Winthrop signee, the Redhawks came storming back.
Jones scored 11 of his game-high 30 points in the fourth quarter and his two free throws cut the lead to 56-53 with three minutes left. The Blazers’ lead was 57-54 when Jones grabbed a rebound, drove to the basket, made the shot and was fouled to pull it within 57-56 with 12 seconds left.
Jones missed the free throw but on the next possession Christian Horn stole the ball and gave it to Jones who hit the go-ahead shot to make it 58-57 with six seconds left.
After a timeout, Napper drove it the length of the court and threw an alley-oop to Benson. But Green stepped into the lane in front of Napper, who was called for the charge, which set off a huge celebration from the Redhawks fans.
“For Ahmon to leave his man and step up is huge,” first-year Westwood coach Ty Baumgardner said. “Most kids would not do that. There would be indecision and they would stay, then Walyn probably gets the basket and wins it.
“Two football guys (Ahmon and Horn) to make two huge plays to help us. Those are winning plays. Those are toughness plays and things we stress all year.”
Ridge View players and coaches left the court in disbelief. After looking at the replay, Ridge View coach Yerrick Stoneman thought the officials made the correct call and said his team didn’t execute well down the stretch.
“Walyn made the right decision, unfortunately a good player slipped in there and took the charge,” Stoneman said. “We’ve got to learn from it and move on. That is not what lost us the ball game. We turned over the ball a couple times late, something we normally don’t do. “
Benson led Ridge View with 16 and Cincere Scott had 13 before fouling out in the fourth quarter.
Westwood will open up the playoffs at home Wednesday against Lakewood. Ridge View will host either Daniel or Belton-Honea Path.
“We have three seasons, nonregion, region and postseason,” Baumgardner said. “We needed to go into the third season on the high note and I don’t know if it gets much higher than that.”
In the girls’ game, Westwood wrapped the No. 1 seed and homecourt in the first three rounds with a 64-33 win. Malayziah Etheredge had 18 and Unique Drake added 10 for the Redhawks, who will host BHP on Tuesday.
RV: Walyn Napper 12, Cincere Scott 13, Anderson, JaVon Benson 16, Wilson 7, Harris-James 4. W: Jones 30, Lewis 7, Dunlap 9, Huff 2, Watson 1, Horn 1, Green 8.
W: Malayziah Etheredge 18, Unique Drake 10, Lockett 8, Leveretter 7, Marshall 7, Frederick 5, McCant 4, Wade 3, Scott 2. RV: Acox 9, Standifer. 9, Daney. 5, Murphy. 4, Mitchem 3, Hasanti Keller 2, Kelley 1