RIVERVIEW — Midway through the third quarter Monday night, Riverview senior Jaden Ramos ran free with the ball on a breakaway, soared above everyone and slammed down a thunderous dunk, which was followed by thunderous applause.
Visiting Wharton called an immediate timeout and Ramos, as he jumped in teammates’ arms, said he never felt better on a basketball court in his entire life.
The dunk gave Riverview a 24-point lead over the previously unbeaten and always powerful Wildcats.
“When I dunked that ball I thought there is no way we can lose after that,” said Ramos, who ended up leading the Sharks with 27 points. “There was no way we were going to let (Wharton) beat us. No way.”
Ramos was right. Yes, the Wildcats (12-1) made a furious comeback, but it wasn’t nearly enough as Riverview held on for a 63-52 victory.
To say the least, the Sharks (12-1) were ecstatic, engulfed after the final buzzer by a raucous, dancing horde of fans.
“I would say that was the biggest (boys basketball) victory we’ve ever had,” Riverview coach Milton Clifton said. “This group has come a long way together.”
Have they ever. Four years ago, in fact, Ramos was a contributing freshman on a team that did not win a single game.
“We formed a brotherhood,” Ramos said. “We are all so proud of ourselves.”
On Monday, the Sharks made a strong statement in the opening minutes, jumping to a 20-4 lead. From there, Wharton steadily battled but could never get closer than it did on its final shot.
“I give all the credit to Riverview,” Wharton coach Tommy Tonelli said. “They took it to us. A lot of other teams haven’t done that to us this year, but Riverview sure did tonight. I was proud of the way we kept battling back but it just wasn’t enough.”
After struggling through the first half, Wharton senior Carr Thiam did heat up in the second half, sinking six 3-pointers in the fourth quarter and finishing with a game-high 32 points.
“We knew Wharton was going to make a run at us,” Clifton said. “But we held our composure.”