It’s been three years and 27 games since Ridgeview lost a South Yosemite League boys basketball game.
But getting to No. 28 and a third consecutive outright league title was much closer — and chippier — than expected.
The last time Ridgeview and East played on Jan. 18, the Wolf Pack won by 28 points.
But the Blades made it interesting on Tuesday, holding a lead early in the fourth quarter on their home floor. East lost one of its senior leaders to an ejection, however, and Ridgeview went on a 20-0 run to win 62-47.
“I knew they were going to play hard,” Ridgeview coach Mike Martin said. “East is a scrappy team and they play tough. For us, we have to play with discipline. We’ve got to run and make shots. When we aren’t making shots, it looks bad. But an ugly win is better than a pretty loss.”
Ridgeview was on a 7-0 run and led 50-46 early in the fourth quarter when East (8-15, 3-5) senior David Ceja was called for a technical foul after shoving Ridgeview senior Rohan Birch to the court. Ceja was then ejected from the game after using inappropriate language directed at the Ridgeview bench.
“He doesn’t get the calls his way. And he’s a kid and can only hold his composure so much,” East coach Eric Grant said. “This has been pretty much every game with him. We’ve been working with his composure every single game. He’s getting better every game. But when he’s not getting calls his way and getting hit and everything, it’s eventually going to happen.”
The Blades had just taken their first lead of the game on consecutive baskets by Arturo Chavez and Richard Lara before Ceja was ejected.
“It sucks. It hurt us big time,” Grant said. “Especially in a four-point game right there. We needed David there. That’s a big loss for us in the fourth quarter like that.”
The tension was palpable in the East gym after the scuffle.
“We just had to keep encouraging our players to keep playing and play hard,” Ridgeview senior L.J. Zeigler said. “That’s how we kept our composure.”
Zeigler scored a game-high 16 points for Ridgeview. The senior point guard moved to Bakersfield before the 2016-17 season and spent last season as the floor general for the Central Section Division II champions. That team was also led by Jordan Roberts and Justin McCall.
With Roberts (Long Beach State) and McCall (Cal State Bakersfield) now playing in college, this Wolf Pack team has been Zeigler’s to lead this season.
The Wolf Pack, now in D-I for the section playoffs, had one of the top non-league schedules against D-I favorites like Fresno-Central, Bakersfield, Liberty and Centennial.
“It’s just about trying to learn,” Martin said. “That’s why we played everyone in the Valley … We know what’s out there … We just want to see what (Ridgeview) team shows up. We’ve got to play hard.”
The Wolf Pack (14-11, 8-0) took their lumps, but Zeigler feels the team and himself are better prepared for the playoffs because of it.
“We lost a lot of games this year,” Zeigler said. “After every loss, I knew I had to do more. I watched film. I looked at what our team did wrong as a whole and what I did wrong as a whole and just tried to correct that the next game.”
Shawn Gementera added 11 points for Ridgeview while Nick Edwards scored 10.
Adrian Salians led East with 14 points and Sebastian Marin added 12 on four 3-pointers.