RIDGEFIELD — In his coaching experience, Jason Buffum hasn’t seen such drastic roster turn over like this year’s Ridgefield boys basketball team.
The Spudders graduated a large senior class with four starters and a total of seven players who were part of the team’s rotation. With the exception of senior forward Sid Bryant, Ridgefield’s lone returning starter, every other player is stepping into a new role at the varsity level.
“We had nine seniors, seven that played a lot and Sid back out of that group,” said Buffum, entering his seventh season as Ridgefield’s head coach. “That group was pretty special in the sense that it was a competitive, really close-knit group. These guys are kind of filling the void now with what their roles are and responsibilities out there.
“I mean, having one of your top 10 back? That’s pretty unique. That hasn’t happened very often, I don’t think.”
In just its second game of the season, Ridgefield opened 2A Greater St. Helens League play on Wednesday with a 69-43 win over Fort Vancouver at home and got contributions from all over the floor. Colten Castro had a team-high 13 points, Jalen Dunn added 10 points, with Cole Chester (nine), Landon Kelsey (eight) and Colton Warren (seven) also chipping in.
“Although we’re not super young as far as freshmen and sophomores … most of these guys were on the JV team last year,” Buffum said. “It’s just nice to have them stepping up to their roles. Castro and Chester are pretty elite-level guards for high school and when they get it going, it’s pretty good. We’ve got some other nice pieces that are doing good. We just got to keep getting better at this point every day. The ceiling is still way up there; we just have to get there.”
Ridgefield played its first game of the season on Monday against W.F. West, the same team that knocked the Spudders out of the Class 2A District 4 tournament in February to stop them one win short of reaching the state playoffs.
Bryant said Monday’s game, a 45-39 loss, was a solid first outing for a new group and it translated to Wednesday’s performance.
“We did really good,” Bryant said. “Even though we lost, I think that set us up really well for (Wednesday’s) game.
“We’re like the only team (in the 2A GSHL) that lost so many starters. It’s really rough, but in practice we’re working hard and it’s just a grind.”
The 6-foot-4 Bryant, who started last year alongside four seniors, sees his role this year as a rebounding and defensive presence in the post who can draw in opposing defenses and facilitate for teammates, who combined to hit 10 shots from 3-point range.
The visiting Trappers also showed their shooting ability with 11 of their 12 field goals converted from deep. Kaeleb Cvitkovich led the Trappers with 10 points while Antonio Barajas and David Smith-Myles chipped in nine and eight, respectively.
Other results in the 2A GSHL from Wednesday reflect how challenging the league is at the top. R.A. Long and Mark Morris, likely the top two 2A GSHL teams on paper, posted resounding wins over Hockinson and Hudson’s Bay, respectively.
Woodland and Columbia River, also in the top-four mix, battled into overtime before the Beavers prevailed in a 73-67 win.
That leaves a team like Ridgefield, which finished second in the league last season, vying for a spot in order to reach the postseason come February.
“Our goal is to be in that three, four mix,” Buffum said. “But I think right now, we’re probably more like five, six, if you started the preseason rankings today. So, we got some things to accomplish to be competitive and hope to make the playoffs.”
RIDGEFIELD 69, FORT VANCOUVER 43
FORT VANCOUVER (0-2, 0-1) — Ahron Melendez 3, Kaeleb Cvitkovich 10, David Smith-Myles 8, Jamo Hicks 3, Miles Evansen 3, Bernardo Castro-Hernandez 6, Tayvon Vance 0, Antonio Barajas 9. Totals 12 (11) 7-12 43.
RIDGEFIELD (1-1, 1-0) — Sid Bryant 5, Kemp Fisher 3, Colton Warren 7, Cole Chester 9, Landon Kelsey 8, Colten Castro 13, Carter Thompson 4, Jack Hughes 2, Jalen Dunn 10, Mason Curran 2, Damion Jiles 6. Totals 26 (10) 7-10 69.
Fort Vancouver 9 7 8 19—43
Ridgefield 21 18 14 13—69