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Ringgold girls surprise West Mifflin, 51-43

| Friday, Jan. 24, 2014, 12:11 a.m.
Ronald Vezzani Jr. | For the Daily News
Ringgold's Kara Foster looks to make a pass play against West Mifflin defender Paige Flore on Thursday, January 23, 2014 at West Mifflin.

West Mifflin scored the first eight points Thursday, and then nine of the next 14.

The Lady Titans were just clicking after that — forcing turnovers at will, running the floor with ease, making the extra pass to set up an easy hoop and weren't hesitating to take it right at Ringgold's 6-6 center Marlena Schmidt.

West Mifflin made it known right away that there would be no ill effects from Monday's last-second loss to top-ranked Elizabeth Forward.

Or so it seemed until Ringgold's Eleni Radic hit a 3-pointer late in the half.

Or until Kara Foster turned a steal into two points 30 seconds later.

Or until Bailey Cooper hit a shot 25 seconds after that.

Or until Foster nailed a trey right before the first-half buzzer sounded.

Ringgold parlayed a 10-0 run over the final 95 seconds of the first half into a dominating second-half performance. The Lady Rams wiped away a 14-point deficit to keep their playoff hopes alive in Section 4 AAA with a 51-43 win at second-ranked West Mifflin.

“For us, it's which team wants to show up,” said Ringgold coach Laura Grimm, a 2006 Serra graduate and the school's all-time leading scorer. “I told the girls from the beginning that I think they are the best team in the section for eight minutes. What happens after those eight minutes, I don't know.”

In this instance, those eight minutes turned into 18.

After a torrid West Mifflin (11-4, 6-3) start, Ringgold (9-8, 4-5) held the hosts to 21 percent shooting from the floor and 16 points over the final 18 minutes.

“I am in shock right now because I can't believe that was our team out there,” West Mifflin coach Scott Stephenson said. “They outplayed us. They never quit and once they got hot it was lights out for us.”

Cooper led the way for Ringgold with 16 points while Foster added 12, but it was Schmidt's presence in the second half that changed the game. Schmidt grabbed 14 rebounds, blocked 12 shots and altered countless others to frustrate West Mifflin.

“Instead of attacking the hoop, we settled for way too many jump shots, and that's not our game because we aren't that good of a shooting team,” Stephenson said.

Taylor Thomas scored 18 and Ciara Patterson 14, but the rest the team managed only 11 points.

“We have been a really good defensive team all year,” Grimm said. “If you can keep a team to fewer than 40 points, odds are that you are going to win, especially against a team like West Mifflin, who is capable of putting up 70 a night.”

West Mifflin was able to rebound from allowing a 10-0 run to end the half and stretched its lead to 33-26 midway through the third quarter.

It was short-lived as Radic nailed a pair of 3-pointers followed by a Chanse Barner hoop within a minute to give Ringgold the lead back.

“All we had to do is wake up,” Grimm said. “We have had slow starts the last three games. I guess we are just slow starters. They need a spark. Whether it is one 3-pointer or something that sparks them and they are on board after that.”

West Mifflin took the lead back at 41-40 with 3:16 left on a Patterson 3-pointer, but Cooper answered right back with a 3-pointer to give Ringgold a lead it never relinquished.

“We just lost all focus,” Stephenson said. “No disrespect to Ringgold but we've seen a lot better ball pressure and full court presses than that, but we just didn't run our press break one time. We were like a deer in the headlights. It's like something we've never seen before.”

West Mifflin is still in good shape to make the playoffs holding a two-game lead over Ringgold with three to play. Ringgold is 1½ games behind fourth-place Thomas Jefferson with three to play. The teams meet at Ringgold on Monday.

“We have proven that we can play with and beat anybody in the section,” Grimm said.

Mark Kaboly is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at mkaboly@tribweb.com.

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