Guy Ellis

The Grove Ridgerunners basketball squads traveled to Vinita Thursday afternoon to face off with a pair of Collinsville teams in 4A regional tournament play. The Lady Red saw their season come to a completion in a hard fought 50-43 final to the Lady Cardinals. In the boys’ contest a buzzer-beater three-point shot lifted the Ridgerunners to a 57-55 victory.

The win advances the Ridgerunners to a showdown today at 3:00 PM in Vinita against archrivals the Jay Bulldogs. The teams have met twice this season already; the Ridgerunners took a victory at Bulldog Arena in the first match up and the Bulldogs returned the favor at Grove in February in a double-overtime thriller. Today the stakes will be higher than ever as the winner advances in the state tournament and the loser checks in their equipment and calls it a season. It’s “go or go home,” to borrow a phrase, and that the season for both teams would come down to this kind of rematch is something that would test the suspension of disbelief in any Hollywood movie.

A Hollywood movie type ending is exactly what the Ridgerunners enjoyed Thursday in their win over Collinsville. Grove began the final quarter down 39-40 after having held a 21-17 lead at the beginning of the second half. Senior Troy Howerton and junior Michael Macomber put together a five-point streak to open the fourth for Grove; the last of those points coming from a nice steal and coast to coast power drive with a flourishing lay-up from Howerton to put the score at 44-40; advantage Ridgerunners. The teams exchanged points throughout the next minutes and a Cardinal trey at 1:21 put Collinsville to within one of Grove, 50-49. The Grove response was swift and with 56 seconds left on the clock senior Blake Hartwick buried a three-point shot to put the Ridgerunners up 53-49. But Collinsville found easy living at the charity stripe and over the next twenty seconds landed four free throws to knot the game at 53 with thirty-seven seconds left in regulation. The Ridgerunners broke the tie on their next possession with a free throw point and the Cardinals responded with a basket to go up by one, 55-54, with thirteen seconds left in the game.

The Ridgerunners took possession of the ball, moved down court, waited for an opening and with two seconds left on the clock Grove junior Tyler Spychalski launched a three-point shot from behind the key that found its way home as time expired.

Spychalski ended the game with six points to go along with his last second heroics. Hartwick was the glue that held the Grove hopes together Thursday. The Ridgerunner senior scored 25 points and landed seven treys. Macomber finished with nine points, as did Howerton. Senior Luke Shoemaker scored four points and junior Reid Harding added the same to the mix.

The Lady Ridgerunners put up a composed effort against Collinsville. A late three-point shot by freshman Kenzie Miller sent the teams to the lockers with a 29-25 Lady Cardinal advantage. The shot was a nice cap to a 16-point second quarter for the Lady Red that saw the Grove team fight back from a slow first quarter.

Grove kept pace with Collinsville in the third and the fourth quarter began with the Lady Red down by five, 39-35. Sophomore Rachel Allington opened the Lady Red account in the fourth with a nice steal and a bucket at the 6:49 mark. One minute later Miller went two for two at the free throw line to knot the score at 39. On the ensuing Lady Cardinal possession Grove sophomore Peri Lane grabbed a rebound, drove down court and dished off to junior Margaret Pogue who scored a lay-up to give the Lady Ridgerunners a 41-39 lead with 5:20 left in the game. Collinsville responded with two free throws that tied things back up but Pogue landed two free throws for Grove to put the Lady Red back in front 43-41 with 5:02 on the clock.

From that point Collinsville put together nine points combining two buckets with five free throws to seal the win.

Pogue was the high-scorer for the Lady Ridgerunners with nine points. Lane and Miller ended the game with seven points each. Junior Stacia Sarwinski scored six points and the Lady Red’s lone senior, Brooke Seawright, put up four points. Junior Chloe Wheeler scored three points, as did sophomore Logan Cook. Sophomores Allington and Kaydee Bassett ended the game with two points apiece.