Blue Jays bounce back from loss to Eastern

Ripley’s Ryan Harney scores on a drive to the hoop during the Blue Jays’ Jan. 5 league game against Eastern.


Ripley boys top West Carter, Lynchburg-Clay –

By Wade Linville –
The Ripley-Union-Lewis-Huntington Blue Jays rebounded from a Jan. 2 loss to the Eastern Warriors to claim victories over West Carter, KY and Lynchburg-Clay.
In the Jan. 9 Southern Hills Athletic Conference Division I battle at Lynchburg-Clay High School, it was the Jays coming away with a 59-48 victory over the Mustangs to up their overall record to 10-2 on the season and their conference record to 5-1.
The Jays got off to a hot start in the Jan. 9 road game, outscoring the Mustangs 16-8 in the first quarter and leading 31-23 at halftime.
The Mustangs rallied in the third quarter to outscore the Jays 13-9, but the Jays sealed the 11-point victory by outscoring the Mustangs 19-12 in the fourth quarter of play.
Ripley senior Ryan Harney led the Jays in scoring in the Jan. 9 league win, firing for 14 points to go along with 11 rebounds and two assists.
Ripley’s junior guard Landon Rigdon finished with 13 points, while junior teammate Jaki Royal finished with nine points and senior guard Brian Dunn with eight points.
The Jays entered the Jan. 9 league game at Lynchburg coming off a 49-47 non-league win over West Carter, KY in a bout that saw Jaki Royal lead the Jays in scoring with 11 points, followed by junior guard Landon Dearing with nine points, senior postman Josiah Staggs with eight points, and Dunn with seven points.
The Jays had won seven straight games before falling to the Eastern Warriors on Jan. 5.
The Warriors entered last Friday’s bout at Ripley with a league mark of 1-3 and an overall record of 4-5 coming off a runner-up finish in the Brown County Holiday Tournament.
After trailing by two at halftime break, the Warriors outscored the Jays 20-10 in the second half to escape Ripley with a 47-39 victory.
“I thought the kids grew up a little bit tonight,” Eastern head coach Rob Beucler said of his Warriors following their win at Ripley.
“Our kids are stepping up and they’re doing their jobs,” said Beucler.
It was Ripley junior Landon Rigdon tickling the twine from beyond the arc to give the Jays an early 3-0 lead. Then it was Ripley junior Landon Dearing getting in on the scoring action with a bucket from close range to lift the Jays to a 5-0 advantage.
Eastern sophomore Hunter Ruckel stopped the early Ripley run by sinking a jumper from inside the arc, slicing the Ripley lead to 5-2.
A steal by Eastern’s senior guard T.J. Stivers led to a bucket by junior teammate Marcus Hamilton on the fast break to cut the Ripley lead to just one.
Ripley senior Ryan Harney buried a shot on transition to leave the Warriors trailing 7-4, but the Jays’ lead quickly dwindled back to one as Stivers buried a field goal in the paint.
The Jays were able to restore an early three-point lead as Dearing dished a pass to sophomore Peyton Fyffe for an easy bucket.
The Ripley lead rose to five as Harney pulled down a rebound and buried the put-back with 2:14 to go in the first quarter, but the Warriors didn’t back down.
Eastern senior Dare Minton scored off an in-bounds pass from junior teammate Gage Boone to narrow the margin to three points. Then it was the Warrior defense forcing a turnover that led to a bucket by Boone on a fast break to trim the Ripley lead to 11-10.
Ripley fans rose to their feet in celebration as junior guard Jaki Royal rifled in a three-quarter court shot at the buzzer to give the Jays a 14-10 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Royal sank his second three-pointer of the night to kick off scoring in the second period, giving the Jays their biggest lead of the game at 17-10.
Eastern head coach Rob Beucler and his Warriors stuck to the game plan, staying focused to remain within striking distance while trying to hold sturdy on defense and take smart shots.
Eastern sophomore Titus Burns drained a short jumper to cut the Ripley lead to 17-12. After holding the Jays scoreless in the next trip down the court, the Warriors sliced the Ripley lead to just two points off a three-pointer by Burns.
With just under five minutes to go in the first half it was Rigdon sinking a shot from three-point land to expand the Jays’ lead to 20-15, but it was an assist by Boone for a three-pointer by Ruckel that downsized the Ripley lead to 20-18.
Ripley senior Brian Dunn rifled in a three-pointer to restore a five-point Blue Jay lead, but what followed was the start of a great night of free throw shooting for the Warriors that would play a significant role in the win. With 3:16 to go in the first half it was Eastern freshman Colton Vaughn sinking two-of-two attempts from the foul line to leave the Warriors trailing by just three.
Fyffe was fouled on a shot attempt and was able to drain both attempts to expand the Ripley lead to 25-22, but it was Vaughn answering the call on offense for the Warriors once again, this time sinking a shot from close range to slice the Jays’ lead to 25-24.
It was a three-pointer by Hamilton that gave the Warriors their first lead of the night, leaving the Jays trailing 27-25 with 1:36 remaining in the first half.
An assist by Dearing for a bucket by Ripley senior Josiah Staggs tied the game at 27 apiece.
Dearing capped off scoring in the first half by taking a long defensive rebound for an easy score on transition to give the Jays a 29-27 lead.
In an excellent third-quarter defensive performance, the Warriors outscored the Jays 10-1 in the first eight minutes of the second half to take a 37-30 lead.
A bucket by Ruckel started off the Warriors’ second-half rally, putting the Warriors on top 31-30.
With the Warriors successfully limiting the Jays’ penetration to the hoop, Ripley shooters chose to take their chances from the outside. After a hot start of shooting from beyond the arc in the first half, the Jays went ice cold in the second half. The Jays went 0-9 from three-point range and 0-11 with shooting from the field in the third quarter, their only point in the entire third period of play being a free throw.
The Warriors rose to a seven point lead in the final minutes of the third quarter with a set of hit free throws by Minton and two-point field goals from Vaughn and Ruckel.
The Warriors sealed the victory by outscoring the Jays 10-9 in the fourth quarter.
No player reached double figures in scoring in Friday’s league bout at Ripley, but Eastern did have three players right on the edge. Vaughn, Ruckel, and Hamilton led the team in scoring with nine points each. Burns contributed in the win with seven points, and Stivers finished with six points.
Rigdon led the way in scoring for Ripley with eight points.
Royal and Dearing shot for seven points apiece.
Harney ended the night with six points, and Dunn finished with five points.
“I told the kids we got to take care of some of the small things we’ve been doing wrong. We’ve tried to do a better job playing defense and stopping penetration, making good shot selections, (and) getting good possessions and reversals,” said Beucler.
“They (Ripley) didn’t get quite the penetration and the kicks into the bigs (in the second half). Then they missed some three’s in the third quarter and it kind of bothered them, but they didn’t quit. They kept coming back, and we tried to take care of the basketball and make some better decisions with it. I thought it was a good team game for our kids. We were happy tonightwith the team win,” said Beucler.