CANTON, Mass. – Junior guard Ricardo Ripley started Monday night’s Div. 2 South preliminary round game fast with 10 points in the opening quarter to help Sharon build a solid lead and he finished it strong with eight points in the fourth quarter, as the Eagles held off a late Milton charge.
Ripley finished the game with 20 points and seven rebounds and helped lead Sharon to a 56-45 victory over the Wildcats in a “home” game that was forced to be played in Canton because Sharon High’s gym had been taken over for Tuesday’s presidential primary.
The gym seemed to suit Ripley and the Eagles fine in the opening quarter. Andrew Filipkowski knocked down a pair of threes to give Sharon the 7-4 lead and then Ripley started to get going. He hit a pair from beyond the arc and added a tough finish in traffic, as Sharon led 20-13 after one.
“We’ve had a lot of conversations with Ricardo throughout the year about how he’s going to be the engine that drives us,” said Sharon coach Andrew Ferguson, “and he got it going early, making his layups, attacking the basket. There weren’t a lot of people on the floor who could guard him.”
The second quarter was all about the defense. Buoyed by the Sharon cheering section at their back, the Eagles held Milton to just three point and no made field goals in the second quarter. Peter Banks (six points, 10 rebounds, two blocks) asserted himself in the middle along with Mitchell Sirota, who each scored four in the second.
Ferguson explained, “We kind of challenged Peter, who hasn’t played well in the last couple of weeks, to give us something that he was giving us in the middle of the season and he responded to that defensively and especially on the glass.”
Leading by 15 at the half, Sharon knew that it could not let its guard down against a Wildcats team that had the potential to put points up in a hurry. Jamaurie Coakley scored four of his team-high 12 in the third and Sam Ferrara scored five of his seven, but the Wildcats could not get any closer than 10 and went into the fourth down 41-27 after a big corner three by Lowerre.
“I hate taking him off the court,” said Ferguson of Lowerre, “and whenever I do he says, ready whenever you need me. To have a guy like that who’s always ready to play, always ready to make a good decision, will rebound, play defense, he makes our team tough to play against.”
The fourth quarter is when Milton made its move. Eddie Hassell knocked the first of his two threes in the quarter to cut the lead to single digits but Ripley answered back with a drive to the hoop to make it 45-34. Christian Reddick buried a three for Milton but once again Ripley responded for the Eagles.
Ferguson said, “They stepped up their defensive intensity and…yeah, Ricardo, he answered the bell. That’s what he has to do…We plan on playing a couple more games this year, hopefully he can keep doing that.”
A Ferrara basket cut the lead to nine and Aiden Johnson followed with a three that got Milton to within six, the closest it had been since the first quarter. Lowerre (16 points, 10 rebounds) followed it with a pair from the line and layup on the break after a long outlet by Ripley. Hassell hit another long-range shot, but the Eagles closed the game 4-6 from the line to seal the win.
“We knew that if they got going shooting it could pose a problem for us. We built up enough of a lead that we could withstand it late in the fourth quarter,” Ferguson said.
There were times when it felt as though Sharon should have been up by a lot more, but in the end the Eagles held off Milton’s charge and gained experience in how to close out a playoff game.
“If we hadn’t turned the ball over as much as we did then we could’ve been in a little better position,” Ferguson admitted, “but our defense was great, guys coming off the bench played great. That was a total team victory.”
Sharon (12-9), the No. 15 seed, advances to face No. 2 seed Whitman-Hanson on Wednesday night.
Josh Perry can be contacted at JoshPerry@hockomocksports.com and followed on Twitter at @Josh_Perry10.