RIDGEFIELD — Thursday’s game wasn’t officially a league championship, but the R.A. Long boys basketball team treated it as such.
Cavin Holden drove the length of the court with five seconds left, outracing Ridgefield’s defense and flipping in a left-handed layup at the buzzer. The Lumberjacks celebrated by running by the Ridgefield student section to the corner of the gym, leaving the home crowd in stunned silence.
R.A. Long’s 59-57 win ensured the Lumberjacks (10-2, 8-0) stayed in first place of the 2A Greater St. Helens League standings with Ridgefield (14-3, 11-2) trailing in second place and Mark Morris in third, ahead of Friday’s rivalry game between the two Longview schools.
“Very, very important,” Holden said of the win.
“It was tough, big crowd and it’s going to be just like this tomorrow, (or) even worse. Mark Morris, our rivals,” Holden said. “Coach (Jeray Key) told us this was the league championship right here, so a lot of pressure (was) on us.”
The buzzer-beater capped a wild turn of events inside of 15 seconds with Ridgefield down five points. The Spudders called timeout after a Ty Snider layup, then denied R.A. Long an inbounds pass from the baseline, resulting in a five-second violation.
On the ensuing play, Henry Hughes pump-faked, took one dribble to his right and buried an elbow 3-pointer to tie the game at 57-all. Hughes scored all of his team-high 18 points from deep.
Initially, the game clock displayed three seconds left, but the officials changed it to five seconds, giving Holden and the ‘Jacks precious extra ticks to execute the final score.
“It felt like pretty generous time,” Ridgefield head coach Jason Buffum said, “but … that’s not why you lose the game. Put ourselves in a position that we got down and had to come back. We made some big plays, Hughes made a couple huge plays for us … you expect your best player to make plays down the stretch and he did.”
Ridgefield was down by six points in the final minute. Snider kept the Spudders alive by hitting a three, making a pair of free throws and a layup, leading to Hughes’ game-tying 3.
The rally was one of several the Spudders mounted during the game against an undermanned R.A. Long squad without leading scorer and rebounder Aaron Ofstun, who injured his ankle last week against Camas. The ‘Jacks also played without 6-foot-8 post Jaxon Cook down the stretch after the junior fouled out.
“With them missing some guys, one guy (Ofstun) in particular and fouling out the other guy, we didn’t real take advantage of what we had going. That’s on us,” Buffum said. “We had an opportunity today to steal one and we let it go.”
Ofstun’s status is unknown for Friday’s game against Mark Morris, but in the meantime, R.A. Long is finding other ways to win. Holden scored 12 of his 20 points in the final quarter, while Jamond Harris and Stephen Rooklidge each chipped in 14 points.
“Since Aaron’s out, my dad (assistant coach Jamal Holden) always tells me, go get more boards, everybody go get more boards,” Holden said. “That’s a 6-8 guy down low that we don’t have anymore. Jaxon fouled out today — that’s another 6-8 guy that didn’t play at the end of the game … everybody’s got to play their roles. If we play our roles, we’ll get it done.”
Ridgefield, meanwhile, still has second place in the 2A GSHL with three games left to play in the final two weeks of the regular season.
“Although we were a little bit disengaged and dysfunctional offensively, we were still making plays that counted,” Buffum said. “No one’s blaming anyone in the locker room, we’re just trying to move on and hopefully we see them (R.A. Long) again.”
R.A. LONG 59, RIDGEFIELD 57
R.A. LONG — Lonnie Brown 0, Jake Gabbard 9, Cavin Holden 20, Stephen Rooklidge 14, Jamond Harris 14, Jaxon Cook 2. Totals 17 (8) 17-20 59.
RIDGEFIELD — Kalapana Estrella 2, Sidhartha Bryant 12, Zachary Warren 5, Ty Snider 13, Nathan Semlick 9, Henry Hughes 18, Joseph Borgmeyer 0. Totals 18 (8) 13-18 57.
RA Long 10 13 15 21—59
Ridgefield 9 12 15 21—57