PERRY TOWNSHIP — Perry realized there was a lot at stake.
The Perry girls basketball program was in a position it has not been in for a very long time.
Coming into Thursday’s contest against visiting Ridgemont, there was a three-way tie for the lead in the Northwest Central Conference. Perry, Ridgemont and Riverside were all sporting 4-1 conference records.
Thursday night, Perry came out aggressive and pressured the taller Ridgemont squad.
The Commodores’ tenacious defensive pressure kept them in the game.
However, Perry’s poor shooting opened the door for Ridgemont, late in the game, as Ridgemont came away with a thrilling 45-41 victory over Perry in a key NWCC girls basketball matchup Thursday at Perry.
On the night, Perry’s defensive pressure helped cause 22 Ridgemont turnovers. Perry committed 13 miscues on the night.
However, the Commodores’ 21 percent shooting from the field allowed the Golden Gophers to keep it close.
Perry (6-8, 4-2 NWCC) had two players score in double figures.
Bryce James and Zierre Thompson each scored 11 points for the Commodores.
Thompson knocked down two 3-pointers, had six rebounds and made two steals. James had a 3-pointer and two steals. Lily Floyd had five points, six rebounds and four steals for Perry.
“This was probably the most important game we have played around here in a long time, as far as girls basketball goes,” Perry head coach John Berens said. “That just goes to show you how hard these girls have worked, to get where they need to be.”
Ridgemont (8-7, 5-1 NWCC) had three players register double figures Thursday night.
Amanda Howland led the Golden Gophers with 13 points, 14 rebounds, two blocks and three assists. Brooke Nelson had 12 points, nine boards and four assists. Emma Smith added 10 points and four rebounds for Ridgemont.
The lead changed hands four times and was knotted twice in the opening quarter, as the game was tied 9-9 at the first stop.
Both teams struggled at the offensive end.
Perry was just 3 of 18 shooting from the field, while Ridgemont connected on 3 of 11 from the floor in first eight minutes of action.
The Commodores came out aggressive in the second period.
Perry opened the second quarter with a 7-0 run, and pushed out to a 16-9 lead.
Thompson and Mi’auni Hall (2 points, 7 rebounds, 3 steals) jump-started the Commodores with field goals. Perry’s defensive pressure helped cause 10 first-quarter turnovers for Ridgemont.
Perry went into the halftime break with a 20-15 advantage.
However, despite reclaiming the lead, Perry still struggled at the offensive end. The Commodores were just 3 of 17 from the field in the second quarter. They ended the first half, 6 of 35 from the floor for 17-percent shooting.
Ridgemont was limited to 6 of 18 from the field for 33-percent shooting.
Thompson led the way for Perry in the first half with eight points and five rebounds.
“In the second quarter, there were good looks all over the place,” Berens said. “Unfortunately, we just couldn’t make them. … We could not knock them down when we needed to.
“But we kept plugging away, and kept plugging away. So, we can’t fault that.”
The score was knotted twice in the third stanza before Perry came away with a 33-28 lead by the third stop.
James led Perry with seven third-quarter points.
The Golden Gophers kept battling back in the final stanza.
Then, with 1:29 left to play, Nelson made a shot down low to give the Golden Gophers a 40-38 lead.
Then, moments later, Nelson scored inside to extend the lead to 4, 42-38.
Perry battled back.
With 22 seconds left to play, Thompson hit a 3-pointer to cut it to 3, 44-41.
However, Ridgemont was able to hold off the Commodores down the stretch.
In the fourth quarter, Ridgemont was just 6 of 15 from the free throw line. However, the Golden Gophers made their free throws in the final minute of the contest. Perry was 0 for 2 from the stripe in the final eight minutes.
“Give them (Ridgemont) credit. They hit their free throws when they had to,” Berens said. “That’s what we talked about in our timeout (late in the game) – to try to get our kids to go to the rim. We did go to the rim early, and they (Ridgemont) played some great defense down there. I think we shied away
from that a little bit. We’re a jump-shooting team, and we’re small. Sometimes our kids don’t go to the basket enough.”
Reach The Lima News sports department at 567-242-0451.