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Luers grad leads Cougars to national tourney

Ridley has solid freshman season

Tuesday, March 5, 2013 - 3:51 am

Some basketball players need to practice and practice to enhance their shot-blocking capabilities.

Saint Francis freshman Brooke Ridley is not one of those players.

“I have never really worked on it much,” Ridley said. “I guess it just comes naturally.”

Long arms and good instincts have helped the Bishop Luers grad make a big impact for the second-ranked Saint Francis Cougars. What is most impressive about her shot-blocking prowess is that she is doing it at just 5-foot-10, at times giving up several inches to opponents' forwards.

Ridley's abilities will be key when the Cougars begin their quest for a national championship Wednesday against Reinhardt (Ga.) University (19-14) the first round of the 2013 NAIA Division II Women's National Championship. Tipoff is scheduled for 11:15 a.m.

Ridley has set the single-game and single-season shot-blocking record for Saint Francis this season. Her 92 blocked shots this year are second only to BreeAnn Hageman of Waldorf (126) in NAIA Division II.

“She has really come in and been a big contributor for us,” Saint Francis coach Gary Andrews said. “She had tremendous coaching at the high school level and really came in ready to do some big things for us.”

Ridley has not just been a defensive stalwart for the Cougars (30-3). She has scored in double figures in 22 games this season, is second on the team in shooting percentage at 47.7 percent and is grabbing 6.3 rebounds per game, second-best on the squad.

“Our post defense has been so good this year with Ridley,” Andrews said.

Ridley's ability to disrupt an opponent's game plan was seen in the Crossroads League tourney semifinals against Bethel. She had five blocks in the first five minutes to set the tone and force the Pilots out of the paint.

For the game, Ridley ended with seven blocks and 11 points in a 71-44 victory.

“We have won 15 of our last 16 games and a lot of that success is due to great defense and taking care of the basketball,” Andrews said. “To win the national tournament, you have to play great defense first, and we feel we are doing that.”

With Ridley leading the way.