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Millville • Ridgeline senior forward Dallan Larsen pulled down a pivotal rebound and converted the ensuing pair of free throws to clinch a 52-48 victory over visiting Juan Diego on Wednesday night.
The Riverhawks handed the Eagles their first Region 11 loss of the season as they trailed most of the game, pulled even early in the fourth quarter, and made crucial plays in the final minutes.
Ahead 50-48 after Landon Brenchley made a free throw with 20 seconds left in the game, the Eagles came out of the timeout with point guard Eslliey Tan racing upcourt. Tan broke through the Riverhawks' defense, but his layup attempt fell off the rim where the 6-foot-3 Larsen was waiting.
"Coach just said that once the rebound went up, it was going to be physical and we had to go get it with two hands like men," said Larsen. "That's exactly what I was going for. As I saw the shot go up, I saw the ball the whole way. My teammates held their box outs and that gave me the opportunity to go get the rebound."
Larsen was fouled with five seconds left and, with his team in the bonus thanks to a foul-plagued fourth quarter, strolled to the other end of the court.
"Every time we shoot free throws in practice, Coach always tells us that we should shoot like it's for the game," said Larsen. "When it comes to moments like that, we're prepared to knock 'em down."
He calmly sank both free throws to give the Riverhawks (11-3, 7-1) a 52-48 lead. The Eagles' last-gasp rush upcourt ended with a missed 3-pointer from Tan.
Juan Diego coach Drew Trost watched his team's lead dwindle in a fast-paced third quarter and disappear in a foul-plagued fourth as both offenses struggled.
"We missed a lot of shots and that kind of bit us in the butt at the end," said Trost, whose team fell to 16-3, 6-1. "For us, Tan shoots 56 percent from 3 on the season. Tonight he missed all four shots and he went scoreless. I don't see that happening ever again. And [Ridgeline] played great down the stretch."
The Riverhawks trailed by seven points at the half, but a methodical comeback saw Jaxon Brenchley (game-high 20 points) tie the game at 41 at the 6:18 mark of the fourth quarter. Brother Landon's free throws on their next possession gave them a 43-41 lead.
Jason Ricketts and Jaxon Brenchley traded scores before Landon made another pair of free throws to put Ridgeline ahead 49-45 with 1:04 left in the game.
Matt Kitzman broke open for a pass off an inbound pass steal in the Ridgeline end and knocked down a deep 3-pointer to bring the Eagles to within one point with 27.2 seconds left.