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Rich South coach Scot Ritter wasn’t feeling very confident Wednesday before his opening game against winless Leo in the 40th Annual McDipper Tournament.
“I’m nervous,” Ritter admitted before the game. “That’s normally how I feel when I’m not sure if we are going to win.”
After a half of play, Ritter wasn’t feeling much better with his team trailing by four. The Stars regrouped in the third quarter and held on 55-46 to gain their 85th-career Dipper win in 143 tries.
Demitri Strickland kept the Stars in the game in the first half when he scored nine of his game-high 16. His three three-pointers limited the damage done by Lions guard Martez Hampton, who was 5-for-5 from three in the first half before cooling off the rest of the way. Hampton finished with 15.
“In the first half we played comfortable and in the second half we picked it up,” Strickland said. “It’s a great feeling to come out and get the win. This is crazy out here, there is a lot of people in the stands.
“But we have to learn to play hard all 32 minutes.”
The host Stars (6-4) trailed 16-12 after a quarter of play and 32-28 at the half. The Lions (0-5) rode the hot hand of Hampton until 3:14 left in the second when he got hit with an inadvertent elbow and came out of the game. He returned in the third quarter but wasn’t the same, missing his next three three-pointers.
Meanwhile, Strickland remained hot with five points in the third, while teammate Jaylen Zachery contributed six of his eight points in that quarter. Down 34-30, the Stars went on a 16-1 quarter ending run to lead for good 44-35.
Kerron Braggs had five of his 15 points in the fourth quarter for the Lions, helping to pull his team with 51-46 late in the period. The Stars went 4-for-4 from the charity stripe the rest of the way to hold off the Lions.
“Inexperience,” Leo coach Noah Cannon said. “The referees didn’t give us any calls but that’s a part of the game. We’ll get it right by New Year.”