BRIDGEVILLE – Not many high school basketball teams have gone through a 12-minute scoreless streak in a game and were able to smile about it at the end.
But there they were: Laura Grimm, the head coach of Ringgold’s girls team, walking into a jubilant locker room Wednesday night in Chartiers Valley High School.
The Rams had just pulled off a 37-30 overtime victory against Hopewell, the No. 4 seed in the WPIAL Class AAA playoffs, not only by overcoming that drought but also a sub-par performance from 6-6 junior center Marlena Schmidt. The win sends the 13th-seeded Rams, who are now 13-9, into the quarterfinals against No. 12 West Mifflin, which pulled off a stunner, too, with a 63-59 victory over No. 5 Indiana. The game will be played Saturday at a site and time to be determined.
Hopewell ends the season with an 18-4 record.
“This is our lucky gym,” said Grimm, in her first year as the Rams’ head coach. “We played here Saturday and won. I played two or three games here and never lost. And my sister played volleyball for Bishop Canevin and won a WPIAL championship on that floor.”
But the expansive confines of Chartiers Valley weren’t looking good for Ringgold in the first half.
• The Rams scored six points and trailed the Vikings 18-6 at halftime.
“We’ve been down worse and won,” Grimm said.
• Ringgold missed every shot but two in that first half, failed to score a point in the final 6:51 of the first quarter and first 5:07 of the second. That’s 11:58 if you’re not good at math.
“We’re not a lethal team on offense,” Grimm said.
• Schmidt, who is headed to West Virginia on a basketball scholarship, had one point at halftime and finished with four to go along with seven rebounds. She did manage to silence the crowd when she fell to the court in the overtime and crack her head on the floor. Trainers got Schmidt to her feet, and she walked to the sidelines, where she took a seat.
“My heart stopped,” Grimm said.
“I landed wrong,” Schmidt said. “I was hoping to go back in.”
She did a few minutes later but fouled out.
That left the hero duties to Eleni Radic, and she was happy to oblige, scoring 12 second-half points.
Radic snapped the Rams’ scoreless drought with a free throw with 2:53 left in the half, then cut into the Hopewell lead with a left-handed runner that banged in with one second to go.
“We are a battle-tested team,” Grimm said. “We have nine losses and seven were by six or less. We’ve won in overtime; we’ve lost in overtime. The difference was that we didn’t execute in the first half.”
Radic, a 5-3 senior guard, and Bailey Cooper, a 5-9 sophomore guard, took over in the third quarter. A layup by Radic and basket by Cooper cut Hopewell’s lead to 23-18. Radic then hit a three-pointer from the corner that made it a 23-21 game after three quarters.
Shaniya Rivers seemed to revive Hopewell by scoring six of her team-high 14 points in the fourth quarter to push the lead to 29-23. But the Vikings began turning the ball over, seven times in the third quarter and 11 times in the second half.
Radic and Cooper closed out the fourth the way they did the third. Cooper hit a three with 2:54 to play and Radic nailed a clutch three from the corner again with 1:22 to go. Hopewell got a shot off at the buzzer, but the Vikings were fighting their own demons. Kari Steur’s shot drew nothing but air, extending the Vikings’ scoreless streak to the final 4:41 of regulation. It went 3:45 of the overtime – again, with the math, 8:26 – before Rivers sank a free throw. But Radic and Cooper, who finished with 17 and 14 points, respectively, had given the Rams a 33-31 lead by then. Radic sank four of six free throws over the final 52 seconds.
“Defense has been the character of this team all year,” Grimm said. “I told the girls that one of the highest percentage of upsets in the (NCAA tournament) is the No. 13 over the No. 4. Defense has been our building block all year.”
Hopewell head coach Jeff Homziak was unavailable for comment.