NORMAL — The Ridgeview High School basketball team's elongated shooting range has led to a season-long barrage of 3-pointers.

Luke Ward didn't quite extend that range to Peoria with the second-quarter clock nearing zero Tuesday at Redbird Arena, but the three-quarters court heave certainly equipped the Mustangs with wings to get there.

Ward's bomb from inside the free throw line after a Flanagan-Cornell miss swished through the net at the other end to send Ridgeview bouncing into halftime with an eight-point lead.

That tsunami of momentum never strayed too far from the Mustangs after that as Ridgeview nailed down a 57-38 victory in the Class 1A Normal Super-Sectional.

"I heard William (Tinsley) say, 'Luke, you better shoot that.' I looked up, took one dribble and got the shot off," Ward said. "As I let it go, I thought maybe this has a chance. When I see it go in, it's just an unbelievable experience."

No. 4-ranked Ridgeview (31-1) won its 31st straight game since dropping the season opener to Flanagan-Cornell and will meet Brimfield in the 1A State Tournament semifinals at 2 p.m. Friday at Carver Arena in Peoria.

"You can say what you want about 31 in a row, but every night you've got to bring it," said Mustangs coach Rodney Kellar, who secured the school's first state berth in his 29th year as coach. "These kids bring it every night."

The Falcons, who were appearing in their first super-sectional since 1983 and bowed out at 23-10, trimmed a 23-11 second-quarter deficit to 25-21 on an Austin Dutko shot in the lane and five straight Keegan Bertsche points.

Ridgeview's Austin Zielsdorf hit the second of two free throws with 6.6 seconds showing. Dutko took the inbounds pass and jetted downcourt, crashing to the floor after his driving shot did not find its target.

Ward snared the rebound and launched the basketball to a splash down inside the distant net.

"That was a big momentum swing," Kellar said. "The amazing thing about that was he actually knew how much time was on the clock. Most kids are not aware of that."

Only half-joking, Flanagan-Cornell coach Brian Yoder noted teams must contest every Ridgeview shot.

"It was a 75-footer," said Yoder. "But he got a good look."

A Zielsdorf basket stretched the Mustangs' margin to 39-23 in the third quarter. But Flanagan-Cornell again responded.

Two Brian Albertson free throws, a Bertsche bucket and an Albertson conversion of an inbounds pass brought the Falcons within 10.

"Down 14, we still didn't fold," Yoder said. "Their defensive pressure was the key. That's the reason I think they're the best team in the state. If we had to lose to somebody, Rodney is a class act."

That lead was back to 10 after a fourth-quarter Bertsche steal and layup. Ridgeview held the line right there and enjoyed a 16-point advantage courtesy of 3-pointers from Tinsley and Drew Jones.

"We knew it would be a battle," said Kellar. "They are a very good basketball team. They came through a rough road just like we did. I was never very comfortable even though we had a double-digit lead."

Tinsley scored 12 of his 21 points in the first half, including a 22-foot second-quarter trey.

"When you know you're feeling it, you know you're feeling it," Tinsley said. "This means everything to Coach Kellar, the coaching staff, the community and the fans."

Zielsdorf added nine points with Ward and Tyler McCormick chipping in eight each. Ward grabbed a team-high eight rebounds.

Bertsche topped Flanagan-Cornell with 20 points and nine rebounds. Albertson had eight points for the Falcons, who outrebounded Ridgeview, 27-23, but suffered from 35.7 percent shooting from the field.

The Mustangs shot 53.8 percent (21 of 39) and connected on half of their 14 attempts from beyond the 3-point arc.

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Follow Randy Reinhardt on Twitter: @pg_reinhardt



Reporter for Lee Enterprises Central Illinois.

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