Butler, Ringgold boys step up in playoff opener to top Ambridge

Wednesday, February 19, 2020 | 11:13 PM

“May-be next year!”

The chant rang out from the Ringgold student section across the Peters Township high school gym as victory came into view.

The Rams advanced with a 73-62 win over Ambridge on Wednesday night to face top-seeded Highlands in the WPIAL Class 4A boys basketball quarterfinals at noon Saturday at North Hills.

“Awesome win,” beamed Ringgold head coach Phil Pergola. “In all my years of coaching, that’s going to rank right up there in the top 10.”

Fun game to watch?

“Maybe for you,” said Pergola.

Junior Demetrius Butler picked the right night to announce himself among the Rams elite. Butler led both teams in scoring with 24 points, going a remarkable 15 for 16 from the free-throw line.

“I just had that mindset right. I was locked in the whole game,” said Butler, as his teammates piled out of the locker room to give him a few cheers.

“I’m so glad he did that and came out of his shell. He really played his game tonight. That made me happy,” said senior Luke Wyratt.

Butler gave full credit to his teammates in what was a — no cliché from Pergola — “team effort all the way.”

“Everybody played great today. Our bench came up, they played hard. All week we worked hard in practice and knew what we had to do. We came out today and we did that,” said Butler.

An all-important hot start set the table for ninth-seeded Ringgold (14-9) to go on what Pergola called the “most important” run of the game.

The Rams raced out to an 11-2 lead and held at least a 10-point advantage for most of the first quarter, finishing the opening frame with a 23-10 lead. Senior Chris Peccon put up 11 of his 20 points in the first.

“That was huge, to get out with a big start and keep riding with it. That played a big role in that game,” said Butler.

“We won by 11, but it wasn’t 11 at the end, you know? That first quarter gave us that lead,” said Pergola.

After building that advantage, the Rams contended with the Bridgers’ size all night. Ambridge put three players standing 6-foot-6, 6-7 and 6-8 in the game, capped by their ultimate big man, Enire Bowens, who the Rams held to 12 points.

Wyvratt, the senior Ringgold big man, needed to work his quickness and the Rams’ overall speed to his advantage to be successful.

“We knew it would be tough for Luke to have a big game, but he did have a big game,” Pergola said of Wyvratt’s 17-point performance.

“They looked bigger than they did on film even,” Wyvratt said. “I just made sure to get low, get around them, and I was able to get a lot of key steals in the first half by getting in front of them and going for the ball before they could front me.”

Ambridge’s Isaiah Thomas (6-6) was one of the big men who was able to grab some momentum in key moments. He finished the night with 17 points, helping the eighth-seeded Bridgers (11-9) battle back in the fourth quarter. Bowens hit back-to-back layups, including one off a turnover with 2:55 to play to bring Ambridge back within two, 62-60.

Ringgold was able to hold off a final charge from Ambridge as Butler and Peccon closed the game out from the free-throw line — a strong suit for the Rams, who went 30 for 35 from the charity stripe as a team.

Attribute that solid shooting to the chemistry and confidence Ringgold is exhibiting.

“Being together for so long, we know each other’s strong suits. It’s such a great feeling to see each other scoring and everyone contributing,” Wyvratt said.

Excited for the next one? Easy answer for Wyvratt.

“Of course,” he said.

Listen to an archived broadast of this game on Trib HSSN.

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