SHERIDAN — Ladan Ricketts is no stranger to the long ball, but his 3-pointer Saturday was a first in his Sheridan College career.
Ricketts buried a 3 at the buzzer to give the Generals a 73-71 win over Miles Community College.
“We put ourselves in a situation that we shouldn’t have been in, and we found a way to win,” Sheridan head coach Matt Hammer said.
Ricketts averages more than three made 3-pointers a game, and the SC freshman knocked down 4 of 9 Saturday. None were bigger than the shot that left his hand just as the final horn sounded.
Hammer said the final play was partially set up for Ricketts, but he wasn’t the first option. The goal was to get point guard Channel Banks a shot at the rim and to pitch it out to a drifting Ricketts only in a desperation situation.
The Generals almost missed both options.
After Miles’ Montenia Nelson banked in a 3-pointer to give the Pioneers a 1-point lead, the Generals had 9.6 seconds to make something happen or walk away with their fifth straight loss.
Banks drove the ball down the right side of the lane but was bumped at the elbow. He lost control of the ball and nearly turned it over. He kept the ball out of the defender’s hands but couldn’t control it enough to get a shot up. As the ball sailed toward the baseline, Banks grabbed the ball with one hand and desperately heaved it to a wide-open Ricketts in front of the Sheridan bench.
Ricketts let it fly, and as the ball splashed through the net, he held his follow-through as he was mobbed by teammates and the Sheridan coaches wiped sweat from their brows.
The sweat was heavy Saturday. Not only were the Generals battling a potential fifth straight loss, but the game should never have come down to the final shot in the first place.
Sheridan, who beat Miles by 36 in the first meeting on Jan. 18, took a commanding lead early in the rematch, as well. The Generals opened the game on a 17-4 run and took a 33-18 lead into halftime.
But the team collapsed in the second half. The 18-point defensive effort turned into 53 points for the Pioneers in the final 20 minutes. Miles shot 70 percent in the second half and got to the foul line 16 times — after just four trips in the first half.
“Maybe I was too nice to them at halftime,” Hammer said. “We came out, that first group had no intensity on defense. Second group went in, same thing. That’s the story of the year.”
It didn’t take long for the momentum to shift and for what looked like another blowout to suddenly become Sheridan fighting not to lose.
Miles went on a 7-0 run to start the second half and cut it to 2 before Pioneers head coach Chase Tait was hit with a technical for what the refs called “throwing his water bottle.”
“I didn’t throw it; I punched it,” Tait said, incriminating himself.
The technical didn’t seem to matter, though.
Less than four minutes after the water bottle was punched, the Sheridan lead had disappeared, and the Pioneers snatched a 47-46 lead.
The two teams battled back and forth for the final eight minutes. Even after Celio Araujo scored 5 straight for Sheridan to take a 60-55 lead, Miles never went away. It came down to free throws for the Generals, and the breakdown continued at the foul line.
In the final minute, Xavier Jackson went 1 for 2 from the line twice, and Banks went 1 for 2 another time. Sheridan finished the game 12 of 24 from the charity stripe.
“Twelve of 24 — it might win you a game in February, but it’s not going to win you a game in March,” Hammer said.
But Sheridan held on, and Ricketts was the savior at a time when Sheridan desperately needed him to be.
The Generals (19-7, 5-5 in Region IX North) are currently fifth in the conference standings with four games left to play. They’ll travel to Little Big Horn College and Central Wyoming College this week.
“Our goal is to play one game at a time but to ultimately finish in the top four to get that first round game at home,” Hammer said. “This is big, pulling out a win like this, one that we almost let slip away. We’ve got to go into practice Monday with some intensity trying to figure some things out.”
Miles Community College……………………………….18 53 — 71
Sheridan College………………………………………..33 40 — 73
Miles — Nelson 23, Mbang 17, Little 11, Portic 8, Rauch 6, Diaby 4, Ponder 2
Sheridan — Ricketts 14, Araujo 11, Banks 10, Ferenc 9, X. Jackson 8, Dieng 8, Harris 7, Sherrell 6
Miles 30 (Mbang 12); Sheridan 32 (Sherrell, X. Jackson 6)
Miles 10 (Little 5); Sheridan 18 (Ricketts 5)