ORANGE PARK-Tied at 60-60 with 1:24 left on the clock, Ridgeview High’s boys basketball team needed one drop in the bucket to beat visiting Pensacola Pine Forest in their Region 1-6A final Saturday night at Ridgeview, but three just-miss three pointers and a final half court toss all hit the inside edge of the rim and bounded out as the Panthers fell 65-63 amidst a sellout Panther Den gymnasium.
"We needed a big shot to go in," said a shell-shocked Panther coach Rob Feltner, who took the Ridgeview team, 21-9, deeper into the playoffs than any in the history of Ridgeview High School. "We got the shots, from page 29
just not the bounce, but I’m proud as I can be at what this team did."
In the final moments, Ridgeview, led by 26 points from senior center Kurae Burns, fell victim to a 4-0 scoreless run by Pine Forest that mimicked the Eagles (29-1) 6-0 runs at the start of the game and also at the opening of the third period.
"It took us a while to settle down right out of the gate," said Feltner. "It took us a while to get our legs back under us in the third."
Down 64-60 with 14 seconds to go, Burns hit an explosive three pointer to put the game at one point, but a foul shot with five seconds put the game at two up for Pensacola before J.B. Nelson’s halfcourt
"We needed a big shot to go in."
– Rob Feltner, Panther coach
shot went in and out of the basket to end the game.
In the first half, amidst a flurry of slash and burn action coinciding with hurried passes and opportunistic steals that had the ball going up and down the court at breakneck speed, Pensacola got the advantage 6-0 and gave the Panther faithful a throatful of fear in anticipation of the game’s final result.
"They were so big and very fast, but we kept battling back," said Feltner, referring to Pensacola’s 6-foot-7 center. "We are as athletic as anyone out here and I felt like once we got into our game, we’d be okay."
Ridgeview would get as close as 1812 at the first quarter break behind three pointers from KJ Mitchell and Kyjon Jones and Burns’ offensive rebounds.
The Ridgeview attack seemed to be working into the second quarter with a Burns jumper tying the game at 15-15 and the two teams seesawing with the lead to the halftime break with the Panthers holding a 33-32 edge.
"We tried to front their big guy, but that always leaves the backdoor open for a pass," said Burns. "We tried to keep him busy with three guys trapping him if he got the ball, but he was so big."
In the second half, again, Pensacola came out firing and quickly hit for six to go up 38-33 with just 1:30 off the clock. A Burns followup layup got the Panthers to 35, but Pensacola responded with five to go up 43-35 before a Burns free throw, a Burns steal and layup with a free throw closed the gap to 43-39 with 2:54 left in the period.
Ridgeview had yet to explore its long range shooting as Gilbert and Nelson were kept occupied at all times by Eagles defenders, but, with 1:32 left in the period, it was Mitchell and Burns who both sank consecutive three pointers to ignite the Panther crowd as the quarter ended 51-45 for Pensacola.
"I don’t know if they were starting to run out of gas or out of luck in the fourth," said Feltner. "We never felt like we were out of it."
As the fourth quarter opened, it was Ridgeview’s pressure defense that started making the Eagles falter and steals by Ken Altieri and Mitchell and three pointers from Nelson and Burns put the Panthers within striking distance with four minutes left.
A steal and assist from Gaylin to Burns ended with Burns burying another three pointer that put the score at 57-54 with three minutes to go.
Gilbert would cash in from three points before Jones and Nelson hit three of four free throws to tie the game at 60-60 at 1:20.
Ridgeview, forced to foul to stop the clock, had four missed shots before Burns hit a three pointer with five seconds to go put the score at 64-63.
"We had to foul and hope for some luck, but they hit the final free throw," said Burns.
Down 65-63, Nelson’s last-second shot came as close as one could imagine without rifling through the net as the game ended.
STAFF PHOTOS BY RANDY LEFKO
Ridgeview High point guard Kyjon Jones slashes through paint for layup.
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Ridgeview High guard J.B. Nelson lets go of final shot from near midcourt with just three seconds on the clock in Panthers 65-63 region final loss to Pensacola Pine Forest Saturday night at Ridgeview High School.
Ridgeview’s fast and furious defensive front, here with J.B. Nelson stealing off Pensacola guard attentive to attacking Ken Altieri, No. 2, in first half action.
Ridgeview senior center Kurae Burns found his hot hand late in the fourth quarter with key three pointers and hit this three pointer to put the game at 64-63 with five seconds left.
Ridgeview High coach Rob Feltner gives some strategy with 14.1 seconds left and the Panthers behind 63-60.
Ridgeview High senior Paul Brown pleads with referee during tight call in second half.