Apollo-Ridge girls display grit in rebound section win

Wednesday, February 10, 2021 | 6:13 PM

With a mix of experienced seniors and younger players still testing their abilities at the high school level, the Apollo-Ridge girls basketball team remains a work in progress, veteran coach Ray Bartha said.

But that progress for the Vikings, hoping to make their way towards the open WPIAL Class 2A playoffs, took a step in the right direction with a close home victory over Greensburg Central Catholic on Monday.

Apollo-Ridge saw an 11-point third-quarter lead disappear, but the team made plays down the stretch, including two clutch free throws by freshman Sophia Yard with 7 seconds left, to secure a 46-42 win to improve to 3-3 overall and 3-2 in Section 4-2A.

“I am proud of the girls for sticking together through adversity in the game and getting a nice win,” said Bartha, who will guide his team into Thursday’s section contest at Springdale.

“Everybody who played responded in their own way, whether it was on offense or defense. That was nice to see. We had some nice defensive stops when the score was 39-36 and 39-38 where (GCC) could’ve opened up the lead. This was the type of close game where I wanted to see how the girls would react, and they kept their composure. But I am not satisfied with everything, and the girls aren’t, either. There are things we still need to work on.”

Bartha said the win over a GCC team that came into the game 5-2 gives his players confidence.

“We had gotten whacked by (Class 2A No. 2) Winchester Thurston (last Thursday), and the girls needed a reminder of what I know, and that is they have the talent to be a decent basketball team.”

Apollo-Ridge was able to hang right with Winchester Thurston in the first meeting Jan. 28 before the Bears started to pull away in the second half for a 43-29 win.

“This (win over GCC) gives us great momentum moving forward,” said senior Morgan Gamble, who finished with a team-best 16 points against the Centurions and drained a 3-pointer with 49 seconds left in regulation to give the Vikings a 44-42 lead.

Apollo-Ridge overcame troubles with turnovers and some other empty possessions to stay in position after losing the double-digit advantage.

“I think in the past we might have crumbled and fell apart,” Gamble said. “The best part about it was how everyone was able to stay positive and play for each other.”

Yard’s late free throws came after she grabbed a rebound off a GCC free-throw miss and was fouled. She finished with eight points.

“Sophia could be a starter, but I like her coming off the bench and giving us a spark,” Bartha said.

Sophomore Brinley Toland added 11 points in the victory.

Bartha said he knows any number of players on the team, including seniors Madi Marks and Emily Bonelli and sophomores Sydney McCray and Sydney Duriancik, can rise up with strong games.

McCray scored all six of her points against GCC in the second half including a jumper and free throw midway through the fourth quarter to give Apollo-Ridge a 40-39 lead.

“We hadn’t played many games up to that point (against GCC), and the more games we are able to play, the better the chemistry can be between the players,” Bartha said.

The injury bug had its hold on the Vikings at the start of January, and Bartha said Gamble and Marks, both multi-year starters, are taking to the court while at about 75 percent battling through knee and foot issues, respectively.

Gamble was the team’s leading scorer last year and earned Valley News Dispatch third-team all-star honors.

Marks, who joined the lineup Jan. 28 after missing her team’s first two games, was limited to just two points against GCC on a pair of second-quarter free throws, but she pulled down a team-high eight rebounds.

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at mlove@triblive.com or via Twitter .


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