By Wade Linville –
The Ripley-Union-Lewis-Huntington Blue Jays put forth a valiant effort in front of their home crowd on Wednesday evening as they played host to the Blanchester Wildcats on day one of the Ripley Pepsi Classic, but when the smoke cleared and the final buzzer had sounded, it was Blanchester escaping with a 53-44 victory.
The Jays jumped out to a 13-2 lead to start the game, but it was a dunk on a fast-break by Blanchester’s 6’8” senior JD Wiederhold that would quickly switch the momentum in the Wildcats’ favor.
What followed Wiederhold’s dunk was a three-pointer by Dylan Miller that sliced the Ripley lead to 13-9.
Ripley’s Josiah Staggs was able to snap the Wildcat run late in the first quarter, burying a shot just before the buzzer to give the Jays a 15-9 lead.
The Ripley lead was cut to four as Blanchester’s Quenton Miller scored on a drive to the hoop early in the second period.
A bucket by Staggs restored a six-point Ripley lead, but the Wildcats answered with a bucket from Jordan Stroud to trim the Ripley lead to 17-13.
An assist by Ripley’s Brian Dunn for an easy score by Alex King expanded the Ripley lead to 19-13, and the Jays were heating up once again on the offensive end.
Later in the second quarter it was Ripley’s Ryan Harney draining a jump-shot to put the Jays up 21-14, then it was Staggs coming through with another score in the paint to leave the Wildcats trailing by nine.
Although they were outsized by the Blanchester squad, the Jays weren’t outmatched in the first half of play.
A three-pointer by Dunn, his third of the night, would lift the Jays to a 26-16 lead in the second quarter.
The Wildcats were able to utilize their size advantage and chip away at the Ripley lead late in the second quarter. At halftime, it was the Jays leading 28-27.
The Jays came out cold in the second half, managing only one point the entire third quarter, a hit free throw by Dunn, while the Wildcats were able to rack up 16 points on the other end of the court.
What was a one-point Ripley lead at halftime turned to a 43-29 Blanchester lead before the third quarter reached an end.
The Jays rallied in the fourth quarter, getting a spark off the bench from senior Laymon Marshall who shot for six points. The Jays went on to outscore the Wildcats 15-10 in the fourth quarter, but despite the gutsy late-game effort, the Jays would fall short in Wednesday’s contest.
Leading the way in scoring for the Jays was Dunn with 17 points, sinking four three-pointers and five-of-eight attempts from the foul line.
Ripley’s Jaki Royal finished with seven points, and Staggs ended the night with six points.
Marshall and Harney shot for five points apiece. Dalton Moran and King each shot for two points.
Leading all scorers was Dylan Miller with 20 points.
The Pepsi Classic Holiday Tournament was scheduled to continue through Dec. 30 with junior varsity and varsity teams from Felicity-Franklin, Augusta, , Blanchester, Fleming Co., St. Patrick (Maysville, KY), Gamble Montessori, and Bracken Co. taking the court.
The RULH varsity boys were scheduled to face St. Patrick on Dec. 29.
The RULH varsity girls were scheduled to face Gamble Montessori on Dec. 30.
BHS 9 18 16 10 – 53
RULH 15 13 1 15 – 44
Blanchester (53): Baker 0 2-2 2, Hopkins 1 0-0 2, Q. Miller 3 0-2 6, D. Miller 7 3-5 20, Lovin 0 1-2 1, Stroud 5 1-3 12, Wiederhold 5 0-2 10. Three-pointers: D. Miller 3, Stroud 1. Team: 21 7-16 53.
Ripley (44): Marshall 2 1-2 5, Dunn 4 5-8 17, Moran 1 0-1 2, Harney 2 0-0 5, King 1 0-0 2, Staggs 3 0-2 6, Royal 3 0-0 7. Three-pointers: Dunn 4, Harney 1, Royal 1. Team: 16 6-13 44.