BY AARON PATTERSON
The last time the Georgetown-Ridge Farm girls basketball team played for a Vermilion County Tournament championship, the members of this year’s team were wearing diapers, and some learning to walk. Now they are learning to drive, and instead of diapers are wearing high school basketball jerseys.
They were too young at the time to recall the winning tradition that surrounded the Buffaloes girls’ basketball program, but 17 years later, coach Michelle Brooks has made sure to remind them the history of the program.
Now that they’ve been reminded of the history, the Buffaloes are ready to make history of their own, and will have a chance to do that in Friday’s County championship game after knocking off Westville 51-33 on Wednesday.
“We’ve been working all year, and surprisingly, we’ve been doing really good,” Georgetown-Ridge Farm junior Brittany Hay said. “Coming from a losing (season) to gradually getting better, and now we’re playing in the championship game, it brings our team together more.
“The last time they (won) the championship was when (Brooks) was in school 22 years ago. It feels really good. Our team is really making her proud.”
While Georgetown-Ridge Farm lost to Jamaica in the tournament championship in 1996, they last won the title in 1991. Five different programs have won titles since the Buffaloes (15-36 overall) last hoisted the trophy, and they are playing this year with the confidence of team worthy of taking it home again.
They displayed that confidence in Wednesday’s win over Westville by leaving no doubt they are on a mission. The two teams had just met last week, and Georgetown-Ridge Farm narrowly escaped with a 52-51 win.
“I think we are playing a little smarter basketball right now,” Brooks said. “We focused on the small things and it made all the difference. I think the biggest difference was offensive rebounds. We didn’t give them up. Last game, most of their points came from offensive rebounds. Our goal was to box out and rebound. That was the little thing that we could take care of. The rest was just hustle.”
Hay and senior guard Callan Hall scored most of the team’s hustle points. Hay scored a game-high 27 points, grabbed 14 rebounds and had six steals, while Hall scored five, had nine rebounds, five assists, and four steals.
The Buffaloes led by 10 at halftime, and by as many as 21 in the fourth quarter. The Tigers (10-15) were forced into a total of 16 turnovers with 11 coming on steals by the Buffaloes. But Westville coach Mike Chandler realized his team’s issues ran much deeper than falling victim to Georgetown-Ridge Farm’s defensive pressure.
“The difference in tonight’s game and the last time we played them was we shot the ball better,” Chandler said. “The open shots that we got tonight, we were knocking those down. It was just a dog fight back and forth. Actually, tonight we might have done an even better defensive job in the half court, but they got some easy transition (baskets).”
Westville shot 25 percent from the field and allowed Georgetown-Ridge Farm to go on a 9-2 run at the end of the first half.
Ashley Hoffman led the Tigers with 13 points and seven rebounds, and Danielle Gabehart scored four and grabbed 10 boards.
Westville will have an opportunity to salvage a third-place finish when they take on Bismarck-Henning on Friday at 6:30 p.m. Georgetown-Ridge Farm will play in the championship scheduled to begin at 8 p.m. against Armstrong-Potomac. It will be the first time this season the two teams have faced each other, but the Buffaloes are hoping the momentum of their recent success will carry them to the title.
“It’s really exciting,” Brooks said. “It’s exciting for the program. Our girls are excited. I’m really excited. It means a lot to us. It was one of their goals, and we’ve got a chance to make it happen.”